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PHOTO BY MC CAUL AND DICKSO
ANGE M. MOSHER
THE SPELL OF
ANGE M. MOSHER
with an introduction by
DUFFIELD AND COMPANY
Copyright, 1920, by
DUFFIELD AND COMPANY
Printed in the United States of America
An Introduction to Brittany 3
History of Brittany 8
Chartres, Vitre and Les Rochers 13
Madame De Sevigne 1G
Rennes, Dol and Du Guesclin 25
Folk-Lore and Jeanne de Pontorson .... 32
Mont St. Michel and Its Legends 39
St. Malo and Chateaubriand 48
A Folk Song of St. Malo 56
DlNARD, DlNAN AND EXCURSIONS 61
Felix de Lamennais 66
Guingamp, Paimpol and Pierre Loti .... 76
Treguier, St. Yves and Ernest Renan ... 82
The Legend and Pardon of St. Yves .... 89
Morlaix, Bards and Poets 100
Marc'harit Phulup and Job La Poulaine . . 105
Breton Wedding 112
Breton Costumes, Landerneau, La Garde Joyeuse,
folgoat, and the legend of the fool . . . 121
Brest and the Adjacent Islands 128
AUDIERNE, AND THE LEGEND OF Ys 134
Quimper, Le Faouet, St. Fiacre and the Venus
of Quinipily 139
XXII. The Country of Guen 144
XXIII. Brizeux — The National Poet of Brittany . . 148
XXIV. Hennebout and the Ballad of Jeanne De Mont-
XXV. Carnac and Legends of the Druids .... 158
XXVI. Legends 165
XXVII. Saints and Fairies 169
XXVIII. Ploermel, the Battle of the Thirty, and Josselin 179
XXIX. Le Croisic, Batz and Guerande 185
XXX. Nantes and Anne of Brittany 192
XXXI. Clisson, the Grotto of Abelard, and the Castle
of Tiffauges 199
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Ange M. Mosher Frontispiece
Map of Brittany 4
Anatole Le Braz 10
Madame De Sevigne 18
The Great Menhir of Dol 26
The Virgin of Rumergol 36
Striking a Bargain at a Breton Market Day 46
Francois Auguste Rene De Chateaubriand 50
Three Fishermen 58
The Brittany Coast 72
Ernest Renan 84
The Chapel of Saint Gildas Near Port Blanc 92
A Street in Morlaix 102
Marc'harit Phulup 106
The Dedication of the Monument to Marc'harit Phulup, the
Ballad Singer 110
A Village Dance in Brittany 118
The Bone House at Tregastel, Inscribed "Today Me, To-
morrow Thee" 126
A Breton Fisherman 136
Fishing Boats of Concarneau 148
The Alignments, Carnac 158
The Miraculous Fountain of Saint Jean Du Doigt 1G8
The Sardine Factory 176,
Anne of Brittany 192
A Group of Bretons 196
MENTAL and the Spiritual — so have I found my
At the start there was the charm of a varied
landscape — the hills of granite — stretches of moors
— picturesque valleys watered by limpid streams —
the soft atmosphere beloved by artists. It was
Brittany on its topographic side.
I had met my attractive friend!
Then as I continued my travels, summer after
summer, I came to know the old churches — the
sculptured Calvaries, the mediaeval chateaux, and
the history of Brittany, dramatic and thrilling, re-
vealed the traits and qualities of the race. I came
to know the customs of the country, and the
primitive appliances in the various industries and
homely crafts, picturesque and appealing.
My friend had revealed his mental, intellectual,
and artistic side.
But the Soul was discovered by slow degrees —
as journey succeeded journey. For the Breton is
reserved. Behind those many rows of buttons that
adorn the embroidered gilet he is entrenched. But
in the end he may be won.
The Folk Lore of any nation reveals its tempera-
ment. "As the wind of a century passes across the
life of a people and — songs are made and stories
are woven which tell what was felt and what was
"Once upon a time" each fairy tale begins, and
"they say" commences the story of something in the
life of somebody, in the land of Somewhere.
While the temperament of a race is mirrored in
its fairy tale and folk-songs, its faith and beliefs
are set forth in the Legends of the Saints or heroes
of the country. But the acquaintance becomes in-
timate only when we have come into the every-
day life — if we share the neighbourhood experi-
ences of a community, we make one of the little
christening party at the church. We sit with the
family around the Yule log on Christmas Eve. We
join in the processions on Saints' days. We share
the excitement and the rejoicings attending the be-
trothal of a young man and maiden of the parish.
We take part in the marriage festivities. And
when Death enters the household we participate in
the sorrows of those who mourn. We make one of
the little group at the "Veillee."
And thus we discover the soul of the beloved —
be it friend — or be it country. Only within the
last ten years have I arrived at this third and most
important phase in my association with my adopted
country — la belle et douce et bonne Bretagne.
I often wonder if it is worth while to travel in
FOREWORD ' iii
Brittany before knowing the legends of the coun-
try and the race. A friend lately said to me: "I
motored all through Brittany last summer, but I
didn't know there were any legends. I wish I had
known there were legends." When I learned that
she had rushed through the very Forest of Broce-
liande — doubtless raising a cloud of dust as she
passed by the fountain of Barenton — doubtless
trailing the odor of gasolene past the very tomb
where Vivian lies enchanted — moreover had
whisked madly past the hill of Menez-Bre, little
dreaming that near its summit the ancient prophet
and bard Gwenc'hlan, buried in an upright posi-
tion, has been waiting through thirteen centuries,
until Brittany has need of him, when he will arise
from his tomb and descend from Menez-Bre to
free his country.
One day in Paris, I was awaiting my turn at the
ticket-office at Cook's, behind two nice elderly la-
dies who asked for tickets to Brittany. "For what
place in Brittany?" demanded the ticket-seller.
"Oh, just Brittany, we don't know the names of
the places, but we want to go to Brittany." But
there were no tickets for "just Brittany." How I
longed to plant myself on a bench between the two
dears and tell them a few legends and other things.
But I was myself tied to a train and there it ended.
But I have often recalled the pair and hoped that
they would one day "see Carcassonne."
Perhaps these two incidents have had their part
in inspiring me to collect these legends, hoping that
they may be the means of explaining to other trav-
ellers that which in the study of Brittany is the
The noble woman to whom we are indebted for
the following pages, American by birth and
Bretonne by adoption, has not only been an honour
to those two countries, but to her sex and to hu-
All those who knew her on either side of the
ocean will bear witness with me that it was impos-
sible to be in her presence, even for a few seconds,
without carrying away the impression that you had
communed with one whose nature was most gen-
erous and hospitable, and whose spirit was most
rich and comprehensive.
It is two years now since Mrs. Ange M. Mosher
has passed away, but there is not one of her many
friends in whose memory she has not remained
actively present, as an example and a vital prin-
ciple; for her whole existence, it may be said, has
been a magnificent homage to the value and beauty
As for myself, I consider it a unique privilege
to have known her. A short time before her death,
she recalled to my mind the circumstances through
which I first made her acquaintance, about twenty
The Union regionaliste bretonne, which
dreamed then of creating, in our Amorican Brit-
tany, national demonstrations analogous to those
of the Welsh Eisteddfod, had chosen that year, for
the place of their meeting, the little town of Guin-
gamp. I went there from my home by the sea,
upon one of those beautiful September days which,
in this extreme western country of France, have
such sweet, luminous charm — days already touched
with the languor of autumn.
The afternoon meetings, to which the public was
invited, were held in a kind of barn, improvised
for the occasion into an assembly hall. The deco-
rations were rather ordinary; at the end of the
room a platform had been made of rough boards
to take the place, as well as possible, of a stage. A
large number of spectators in true Breton fashion,
that is to say, with a democratic spirit, were crowd-
ing one another on the plain wooden benches bor-
rowed from some neighbouring inn.
As I pushed my way into the room, the audience
was listening spellbound to a peasant singer whom,
by her voice and manner, above all by the umbrella
pressed tight under her arm as an indispensible
attribute to her person, I recognized from the
doorway as my old friend, Marc'harit Phulup;
I shall have occasion to speak of her later.
I was not long in noticing before me, near the
front row of seats, the exquisitely beautiful face of
a woman; it was evident that she was somewhat
advanced in years, but below the waves of her sil-
very, white hair she had a look of unfading, youth-
ful freshness. The black lace mantilla around her
head, the long floating cape of black silk that de-
scended from her shoulders to her feet, in fact her
whole appearance, indicated that she was a
stranger. She was small of stature, and age had
visibly rounded her form, but a glance was suf-
ficient to be attracted by her supreme air of re-
finement and distinction. This foreigner, of what-
ever nationality, was undoubtedly a notable-look-
ing personage. I asked the poet, Le Goffic, by
whose side I was sitting, who this lady could be?
"I know nothing about her," he said, "except
that she is an American, and this morning, at the
hotel, she expressed a desire to be allowed to fol-
low the exercises of our reunion."
She followed them apparently with the deepest
interest. Her clear, blue eyes, shining with excite-
ment and enthusiasm, did not leave the face of
Marc'harit Phulup for one instant; she did not
lose any play of her physiognomy, any intonation
of her voice. Unable to follow the sense of her
words, which were in the Breton language, she
nevertheless imbibed, so to speak, with her atten-
tive ears, the peculiar accents of the Celtic melody
to which the uncultivated voice of the ballad-singer
lent a primitive, almost wild character which was
the more confusing.
When Marc'harit had finished, Mrs. Mosher,
not content with mere applause, wished to shake
hands with her. This was the moment that Le
Goffic introduced me. I was, then, far from fore-
seeing the role that America would play in my
life; like many of my compatriots, I had very
vague ideas about it, and they were, for the most
part, erroneous. America seemed a long way off,
and neither did it have for me that mysterious at-
traction that distance often lends; I thought that I
should never have the opportunity of going there,
and I did not even have the desire to do so; in
short, America remained beyond my moral as well
as my physical horizon; and now, behold it sud-
denly revealed to me through one of its most
charming incarnations! ... I realized, later, that
Mrs. Mosher was an exceptional type of woman;
but, had America only produced this one, she
would have the right to be proud of her crea-
tion. . . .
We passed the rest of the day together; and when
I took leave of her, at the approach of evening, we
had the conviction when we parted, that the words
exchanged during these short hours had woven
between us a woof of affection strong and dur-
able, that neither the passage of time, nor even
death itself could ever break.
The subject of our conversation may be easily
divined. What else could it be if not about the
Brittany we both loved so well? From one thing
to another, Mrs. Mosher told how, and at what
critical turn in her life she had had, according to
her own expression, "the unhoped-for happiness of
discovering Brittany." Many times afterward,
she returned to this subject to give details or com-
plete them. I wish to relate the principal inci-
dents here; but, that which will be lacking in my
recital — that which, alas! will be impossible for
me to render, is the graceful manner and vivacious
way she expressed her fine emotional feeling. Her
language was so natural and original, so full of
Mrs. Mosher married young, and soon became a
widow; she was left with three daughters upon
whom she lavished her whole affection, devoting
herself entirely to their education, which she al-
ways esteemed the chief duty of her life. But,
as children become older, their wings begin to
grow; the time arrives when they aspire to fly; so,
one sad day, Mrs. Mosher found herself upon the
edge of an empty nest. She had hardly reached
the age of full maturity; her destiny was far from
being accomplished; endowed with a well-pre-
served constitution, she saw many long, spacious
years before her; with what could she fill them
"Free now to live for myself, after having lived
so long for others," she said, "I began to wonder,
not without some anxiety, what would be the best
usage I could make of my freedom. I did not
know what to do or where to go in order to accom-
plish my desire; I felt as if I were lost. In such a
perplexing situation as this, every woman expects
a great revelation; for some, it presents itself in
one form or another, but for many it never comes;
mine, however, was to be Brittany.
"My eldest daughter was then studying art in
Paris. I joined her there one summer, and we
were both asked to pay a visit to one of her friends,
a young American, an artist like herself, whose
parents had rented for the season the Chateau de
la Grand' Cour, near Dinan. You must remember
that I was ignorant, then, of Celtic Brittany even
to its name. I know to-day that at Dinan I was
still upon the threshold, only; but, nevertheless, it
was there at the Chateau de la Grand' Cour that I
was initiated into its existence, and that in a most
unusual and unexpected way; fate sometimes
works intelligently. One evening, as I was search-
ing among the books in the library of the old Cha-
teau for something to take to my room to read, my
hand, by one of those providential chances, fell
upon a large volume of which the size was really
too important for my inclination, but its worn bind-
ing tempted me. What could it contain of such
interest that it had been read so much? I carried
it off, opened it, and was soon absorbed in the sub-
ject. At the same time, I had found the essential
interest which was henceforth to occupy and en-
chant my life; I had discovered what I was
This book was : La Bretagne by Pitre Chevallier.
A superannuated work, perhaps, but it breathed a
passionate love for the Breton-land, its ancient
race, history, manners, customs and traditions.
Mrs. Mosher read and re-read this book until she
had well digested its contents. From this time
forth, her great desire was to know the country
described in the book; it haunted her continually,
until she, at last, took up her staff, one day, and
began to make most ardent pilgrimages through
Brittany. Rarely did two consecutive summers
pass without her appearance there. At regular in-
tervals, the most humble, isolated, lost villages of
Armorica saw alight from a public carriage or
hired wagonette and to install herself in some little
hotel of the place, a gentlewoman with a long black
silk mantle, who, it was said, had come from a for-
eign land. But she soon ceased to be a stranger
to the Breton-folk; she was so kind to everybody,
and so anxious to win all hearts; as for her
own, the Bretons had conquered it the very
"Yes," it pleased her to say, "I have literally
given myself to Brittany; and how graciously and
delicately has Brittany welcomed the gift of my-
self to her! You know how many times I have
gone through the country year after year, discover-
ing a little more each time, and consequently lov-
ing it more and more! Well! not once, do you
understand, have I been asked : who I am, whence
I come, what I want. Oh! the wonderful discre-
tion of this race, the most aristocratic of all races,
in the purest acceptation of the word! They
watched me come and go without any comments,
as if the event was the most natural thing to do. I
came: "Bon)our, Madame!" I went: "Bonsoir,
Madame!" Never a look of astonishment, never a
question; while I was constantly asking them ques-
tions, and the greatest variety, too; I was always in
quest of some information. I wanted to know all
about the Breton people and Breton things; but,
with all that, nobody took it amiss; nobody grew
angry; on the contrary, it always stirred up a
rivalry among them as to who could give the most
information, and be the first to make it known.
These men and women of the people instinctively
felt that, if I were eager to know the detailed his-
tory of their past and present, it was not through
the idle curiosity of a mere tourist, but through the
inspiration of a more noble desire to penetrate
deeply into their souls so as to make them more
intimately mine. Ah! what marvelous spiritual
riches they have permitted me to accumulate in
that way! How can I ever repay them! They
have given me a hundred-fold more than I have
ever given them; but the one to whom I owe the
most, the human creature who has disseminated
the most poetry and novelty into my life is, as you
may divine, Marguerite Philippe — old Marc'-
harit. . . ."
Marc'harit Phulup! How can I describe her
in a few lines! Try to bring before your mind a
poor Breton peasant with one arm maimed. She
had less than ordinary intelligence, was completely
lacking in education, not knowing how either to
read or write, but for that very reason, perhaps,
gifted with a wonderful memory. It was suf-
ficient to sing a song before her only once, and she
would retain both the air and the words. Now in
Brittany they sing a great deal; during the day, in
the open air in the fields; in the evening, around
the fireside at the farms; and, as Marc'harit was
incapable of working — that is, of using her hands
to work — she earned her living, moving about
from place to place, making pilgrimages from
chapel to chapel for the sick who had need of the
intercession of some saint to cure them (un saint-
guerisseur) who was supposed to cure this or that
malady. The occasions were not wanting, as she
fulfilled her various missions to these chapels, to
increase her repertoire of ballads. And so she
finally arrived at the point of storing up in her
memory a prodigious number of gwerziou and
soniou (the two types of poetry the most common
and popular among the Breton-folk) . She boasted
of being able to sing unceasingly for three months
without repeating a single song. Perhaps she may
have exaggerated a little; but it is nevertheless
quite true that she had a great genius for singing
these ballads — the spirit of song dwelt within her
I have already related under what circumstances
Mrs. Mosher heard her the first time at Guingamp.
That same evening, she asked Marc'harit to go to
the hotel and dine with her, and afterwards to sing
for her alone in her room. From that moment, a
strong, touching friendship sprang up between
the poor peasant woman of Tregor and the Ameri-
can lady; in one of them it took the form of
simple adoration, in which, however, there was no
feeling of servility; in the other a complex senti-
ment — a mingling of protective tenderness and sin-
cere admiration with a deep sense of gratitude.
"In Marc'harit," said Mrs. Mosher to me,
"I had the impression that I had reached, not only
the spirit of Brittany, but I even went so far as
the very quintessence of this spirit drawn from its
source, in all its original freshness, in all its prim-
itive purity. It was as if the entire country, the
sky, the earth, the sea had started to sing in order
to breathe into me the music from the depths of
its soul, that mysterious and magic symphony that
the tourists and the profane pass by, and will al-
ways pass by without hearing. . . . Dear, dear
Marc'harit! . . . But what a strange relation be-
tween the American that I am, and the Breton
that she was ! There was no possible bond between
us except the invisible one of the heart. Even the
French I knew did not help me to communi-
cate with her, as she knew, and only understood,
Breton. No means, consequently, of intercourse
through language. And yet, we lived in-
timately together for days, weeks. We visited I
don't know how many shrines. Seated side by
side in one of your Breton vehicles, not any too
comfortable, we jolted along, silently, to all ap-
pearances; but, within us, there was a long conver-
sation going on the whole time. How often we
have conversed without saying a word to each
other! How eloquent was this silence! When
Marc'harit felt that it had lasted long enough, she
would turn toward me, smiling both with her lips
and eyes; then, with head erect, looking fixedly
into the distant space, she would suddenly begin to
intone a ballad. And, for one or two hours, she
would sing and sing. It appeared as though the
musical spirit of the old Breton harpers, her an-
cestors, had brusquely awakened in her, and had
taken possession of her very soul. She seemed to
be made mad by the sound of her own voice, whose
notes, growing gradually wilder and wilder, rang
out long and loud through the solitude of the coun-
try in which we were travelling. The meaning of
the Breton words escaped me, yet there was some-
thing strangely sympathetic in the mystery of their
unknown syllables; the melody, the rhythm, the
accent, all were apparently familiar to my ears;
they evoked in me an indefinable memory of a life
anterior to this, in very ancient days, where melo-
dies like these had haunted my dreams. And I
cannot possibly give an idea of how much I was
inspired by it; I had the feeling while listening to
Marc'harit's song, that I was transported back to
my veritable origin; I had the consciousness, as if
through a miracle, of an immemorial, vertiginous
past. What an infinite power of suggestion in those
old, Celtic chants! I do not believe there can be
found elsewhere any that are more touching or
beautiful. I have hoarded up a number of them
to rest me in my old age; they have supernatural
virtues. Thanks to these songs, I can escape, when
I choose, from the ugly features of New York; for
I have only to hum one of these tunes to be taken
back to Brittany, — to the land that I love.* And
now you can understand, in some measure, what
my debt is to the poor Armorican peasant woman,
who, in her poverty, richer than all our million-
aires put together, has left me this splendid leg-
Among the cultivated Bretons themselves, I
know of no one who has gone farther than Mrs.
Mosher in the comprehension of the soul of the
Breton people. For proof of this assertion, I need
only tell of a little episode in her relations with
Marc'harit, to which a brief allusion is given by
her in the course of this book. You have seen what
unreserved admiration Mrs. Mosher has pro-
* Mrs. Mosher was by natural endowment and by education a
fessed for the exceptional gift of her companion
in many pilgrimages. She only saw one imper-
fection in Marc'harit which shocked her a little;
and she proposed to try and remedy the matter.
Although Marc'harit had so many devotions to
make, still she did not pay enough attention to
physical cleanliness; it was a part of her employ-
ment to make innumerable prayers at all of the,
sacred fountains of her country, yet it did not occur
to her to keep her hands long enough in the water
to clean them. Mrs. Mosher thought that perhaps
it was because she had never known the use of
soap. And so one morning she asked the maid at
the hotel to buy a cake of soap at a neighbouring
bazaar and give it to Marc'harit as a present from
"Well, what did she say?" inquired Mrs.
Mosher of the maid when told that the errand had
"Oh! Madame, you should have heard her ex-
clamation of delight when I gave her, with your
compliments, the pretty rose-coloured cake of soap
wrapped in silver paper. She said that she was
never so happy in all her life."
As the hour for dinner approached, Mrs.
Mosher expected to see Marc'harit appear with
immaculately clean hands. Alas! they were, if
possible, more doubtful than the day before. The
attempt had been unsuccessful. The next few days
Marc'harit promenaded around triumphantly with
the piece of soap in her apron pocket, but not once
did the idea come into her mind to make use of it.
And, of course, Mrs. Mosher took great care not
to indicate to her more explicitly to what use she
had destined the present; she was too much afraid
of wounding the Breton sensitiveness of her friend ;
and so, perforce, she was obliged to return to the
United States without obtaining the hygienic re-
sult she so much desired.
The following year, .upon her return to Brit-
tany, she invited me to go with her to pay a visit
to Marc'harit. Upon a beautiful autumnal after-
noon in August, we went through the land of Tre-
gor, heavy-laden with the ripe, yellow wheat, tak-
ing the road to the hamlet of Saint Idunet where
Marc'harit's thatched cottage stood in the midst
of a small garden. As soon as she caught sight of
us in the distance, she ran to meet us, escorted by
her pet cat, who, up to the moment of our arrival,
had been purring peacefully in the sun on the door-
step by her side. With great effusion, she took
hold of Mrs. Mosher's arm and led her into the
dark interior of the room, up to the chimney-place
with grey ashes upon its hearthstone; and then, she
pointed to the chimney shelf (the family altar
found in all Breton homes) which was about even
with our heads, and said:
"Sellet, Itron, aze man/" (See, Madame, it is
Yes, in very fact, it was there between a porce-
lain statuette of Notre Dame de Bon Secours and
a crucifix of box-wood mounted with copper nails;
it was there intact, religiously exposed under a
glass globe, the pretty little cake of rose-coloured
soap wrapped with silver paper; and Marguerite
fairly beamed with joy as she showed it to us. I
looked at Mrs. Mosher; she was too much moved
to articulate a word; tears filled her eyes.
"Ah! yes," she finally said to me, "this is indeed
your race — the indomitable creator of idealism!
You make it out of nothing; this woman of the
people has turned a commonplace article of the
toilet into a symbol — a relic. She has transformed
a poor, casual, trivial thing into a thing of the soul,
— a thing of eternity."
What Breton, may I ask, would have interpreted
more surely, expressed in more happy terms, the
very essence itself of Breton psychology? . . .
This was to be the last visit ever made to Mar-
guerite. A short time afterward, she rendered to
God a soul as pure and white as her hands were sul-
lied; she died as she had lived, in simple faith.
The Cure of Pluzumet, the pastor of her parish,
wrote to Mrs. Mosher that up to the last supreme
moment she did not cease to whisper in her pray-
ers the name of her benefactress across the sea.
Mrs. Mosher, herself, has told how a monument
to Marc'harit's memory was erected with a
fund collected by Mrs. Mosher. Through her
thoughtful kindness, Brittany will always know
where to kneel at the sepulchre of the most fer-
vent, the most humble of her national ballad-
But how many other services Mrs. Mosher has
rendered to her adopted country! Had it not been
for her, it is probable that one of its most note-
worthy deeds — that of an heroic sailor who saved
a whole fleet of ships — would have been doomed to
oblivion. Browning, it is true, has celebrated this
noble deed, but who reads Browning in Brittany?
Mrs. Mosher, who knew her Browning by heart,
never ceased to make a crusade for this great un-
known Breton, Herve Riel, until the day she ob-
tained recognition of his bravery from the negli-
gent citizens of his native town — a recognition
which had been deferred for two centuries. It
was she who, with the aid of M. Etienne Port,
resuscitated the bold Croisic pilot, the valiant hus-
band of la belle Aurore. Since then, his bronze
statue stands upon the quay of his native town, his
face ever turned toward the sea whose waves — and
the lines of an English poet — were for a long time
the only things that perpetuated the memory of
his exploit. His zealous American admirer had
the satisfaction of being present at the inaugural
ceremonies of the statue erected in his honor. A
year later, war was declared; Mrs. Mosher was
never to see Brittany again.
During the bloody struggle of the late World
War, and even up to the hour of her death, which
came, alas! before she could rejoice at the dawn of
peace, her heart was always with her Bretons.
Constantly she followed them in thought; on land,
on sea, wherever their duty to France called them
— their duty to the world; wherever they fought
and fell for the salvation of the civilization of the
soul, for which the Celts have ever been the true
It chanced that I was sent on a mission to the
United States in the latter part of the year 1917;
and, at the beginning of 191 8, I had the oppor-
tunity of staying several weeks in New York. Mrs.
Mosher was then living with her daughter, Mrs.
"Come as often as you have a moment to spare,"
she said; and I arranged to go to see her nearly
every afternoon; she was then eighty years old.
Did she have a presentiment then that the conver-
sations of this winter would be the last that we
would ever have together? I had, at all events, the
impression that she purposely filled them with
questions and confidences, as if to leave me as much
as possible of herself, and to gain as much as she
could from my presence. There was a secret
solemnity about these hours passed together, and in
spite of ourselves our words took a tone so grave
that the effects of them were prolonged mysteri-
ously, long after we had separated. Oh ! those talks
on Park Avenue — those talks so full of deep feel-
ing, that I had with the most intelligent and hos-
pitable of friends! They will be present to my
mind as long as I live.
I usually found Mrs. Mosher knitting socks for
the soldiers; when I left New York she was knit-
ting the three hundred and twenty-sixth pair. Of
course it was natural that the first subject we dis-
cussed was the war; then, by some sudden break in
the conversation we escaped into the past. Mrs.
Mosher took me back with her over the years of
her life; introduced me into the sanctuary of her
memory; evoked the pleasures of her youth, her
childhood. She told me of the liberal education
she had received in her native town of Warsaw;
how she rode horseback; how she learned to shoot
in company with four or five brothers; how, under
the guidance of her father, one of the judges of the
county, she became fond of nature, music and
books; how, one evening, when she was playing the
piano, she suddenly discovered that she had, at the
window, a singularly attentive listener in the per-
son of a young girl of her own age, who chanced to
be none other than Adelina Patti; how — but I for-
get myself; it is my mission to speak of Mrs.
Mosher only in regard to her indissoluble connec-
tion with Brittany.
One day in February, as I crossed the threshold
of her door, she handed me a copy of the North
American Review, in which she had just read a
touching incident about a young Breton of He et
Pilaine, by the name of Louis Malivet, then con-
valescing in the American Hospital at Neuilly,
after having a leg and arm cut off. The nurse, who
had him in charge, did not have enough words to
express her praise of his resignation, his serenity,
his gentleness, the unique quality of his "Breton
"I want to do something for Louis Malivet," she
And she immediately began a correspondence
with him in order to find out in what way she could
be the most useful. He did not have extrava-
gant wishes, this poor mutilated soldier of the war!
His whole ambition, once out of the hospital, was
to have the means of taking up again his primary
studies (he was forced to leave them when he was
thirteen years old to go and work in the field) and
to prepare for his examinations as a teacher.
Needless to say that Mrs. Mosher raised the
necessary money, and now, over there, at lie et
Vilaine, in Brittany, there is a school-master who
blesses her memory. When he wrote to thank her,
she replied : "The only thing that I ask for in re-
turn, is to teach your pupils to love Brittany."
How she, herself, loved the Breton-folk! She
loved them with her whole heart and soul; with a
love complete and absolute, even for their defects
and weaknesses. Upon more than one occasion,
she could have wished that the Bretons were less
Celtic; that is to say, less divided among them-
selves; and that they would not waste their time
and strength in quarreling. And, no doubt, she
could have wished them to be less addicted to
drinking strong liquor. But Mrs. Mosher always
expressed herself about these things in words full
of indulgence. Her criticisms were intentionally
veiled in parables. For instance, she represented
herself on the way to paradise, surrounded by her
dear Bretons. They were all there — those whom
she had met in her earthly life. But, en route,
some stopped to drink, others to quarrel, so that
by the t ; me she had reached the gates of the Celes-
tial Abode she was alone. Saint Peter, as every-
one knows, is not gifted with patience. Hardly
had he opened the door, when he made a motion
as if to close it again:
"I know your Bretons," he said. "If I waited
for them I should be here a week."
"Oh! you surely would not be so hard-hearted as
to leave them outside, good Saint Peter! They are
such worthy folk. Of course they have their faults,
that cannot be helped, for God has made them that
way; but, to counterbalance these faults, how many
qualities! Ask your colleague, good Saint
Yves. . . ."
And so she continued talking as long as possible
in order to gain time; and . . . the conclusion is
that they finally arrived.
It was on Wednesday, February 13, 1918, that
I had, with my good friend, the conversation which
was never to be followed by another. I left for
Cincinnati in order to rejoin my wife, to whom
Mrs. Mosher loved to apply these lines of Brown-
"A spirit, a fire, a dew."
Upon the point of leaving behind me the apart-
ment on Park Avenue a strange melancholy seized
my heart. Mrs. Mosher, whose quick perception
divined, at once, what was passing within me, said :
"Yes, it is possible that we may never meet
again; but, if this happens, think of me without
regret. I have been blessed during long, long
years, and I will go on to the great and last ad-
venture with that same ardent desire with which
I have gone forward to meet all other experiences
of my life. It is just as if I were making ready to
discover another Brittany, still more enchanting,
if possible, — an eternal Brittany. In truth, I will
carry it in me. Do you remember that Queen of
England who declared, when dying, that if her
heart was opened after death that they would find
written there the name of Calais? — Well, in mine,
if they open it, will be found the word : Brittany."
Dear, dear friend, you are no longer here among
us, but a part of you will always be found in these
pages, written from your dictation by one who was
intimately attached to you.
This will be like your own voice breaking the
silence of the tomb so as to proclaim, better than
I have been able to do, how you have felt, and un-
derstood, and loved Brittany. . . . You, the won-
derful American woman that you were, to whom
your second country had gratefully given the title :
Bretonne Ira Mor*
Anatole Le Braz.
New York, February 15, 1920.
* "The Bretonne across the sea.'
THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
The Spell of Brittany
AN INTRODUCTION TO BRITTANY
It SOMETIMES happens that after much travel
in guide-book fashion one likes to search out some
little nook of a continent where, jaunting about
leisurely, browsing in quiet fashion, one meets peo-
ple, objects and experiences more simple and naive
than those encountered in ordinary travel. And
to find such a spot, quite apart, a corner of the
earth where the folk-songs are still sung, the
ancient language spoken, the old legends recited,
where the traditional costume is worn — in short,
where the people hold to the old faith, customs and
traditions — this is to many a coveted pleasure.
The Province of Brittany offers the possibilities,
and to realize them is the object of the various
journeys we are to make together.
And happy the traveller whose actual visit has
been long delayed and who has done much imagi-
nary journeying through the medium of books.
When at last he visits the actual scenes he will ex-
perience a sense of familiarity and ownership.
Historians agree that the record of Brittany is
4 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
most curious and interesting. Many minds have
served in the making of this record. But the real
history of this as of many another corner of the
earth remains to be written. Emile Souvestre has
well expressed it: "Only when each fragment of a
country shall have its own careful and studious
historian and these fragments are joined together
shall we have a really great, an entire, a perfect
history. For each little corner of every province
has its own intimate record; its story of a faithful
priest or brave captain, its chronicle of the heroic
patience and humble service of its peasants, its
local tradition, its old song and legend."
The object of these chapters is to note some of
these simple records, to recite some of the old bal-
lads, recall the legends and to give a few modest
impressions received during various journeys
through this one little corner of France — Brittany
with its five departments: Ille-et-Vilaine, Cotes-
du-Nord, Finistere, Morbihan and Loire-In-
There are many reasons for giving Brittany espe-
cial place in one's affections and for choosing it as
the scene of our little journeys together. Not that
nature had been too prodigal in her bestowals.
One finds nothing in the topography of Brittany to
compare with a Niagara or a Vesuvius. There are
mountains and ravines and rivers, with here and
there a landscape which Virgil would not have
scorned. It is a land of quartz and granite and
AN INTRODUCTION TO BRITTANY 5
stretches of moor and forests which might not im-
press the ordinary traveller, but in these forests
one hears the echoes of ancient voices, visions of
fairy folk lurk in the mysterious shadows and he-
roes of legends are in hiding behind rocks and
ancient trees. One is made aware of a peculiar
presence, a touch of the marvellous, the mysteri-
ous, a magic influence. Enchanted forests and en-
chanted people exist in Brittany. The fairies still
dance around the dolmen on moonlit nights, the
dead walk in slow procession through the fields
and along the roadways on the night of La Tous-
saint. The mystic vervaine of that early inhabi-
tant — the Druid — has not lost its secret. All is
fanciful and uncertain as if enveloped in a subtle
fog. Vagueness and nebulous dreaminess pervade
the atmosphere — the vagueness and nebulousness
of the Middle Ages. It is an atmosphere in which
giants and fairies are born and fancies and super-
stitions find congenial soil. Caesar wrote that the
inhabitants of this old Armorica (the ancient name
of the Province) were the most superstitious of all
the peoples he encountered. This influence still
exists and the traveller is made aware of it. In
our excursions in this country it is well to leave
our twentieth-century scientific notions behind.
Poor old Brittany! The X-Ray of rationalism
would make havoc of the poetry and mystery and
delicate vagueness which create the magic atmos-
phere of our Province.
6 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
Brittany has furnished rich material for poets,
artists, historians and archaeologists and many of
her sons and daughters have been numbered among
the world's great names. The pens of Caesar, Taci-
tus and Pliny the Elder have written her early his-
tory, but a yet earlier record was made when,
perhaps thousands of years before the Romans
came to conquer Gaul, the megalithic stones were
placed in Carnac in Lower Brittany where we see
them standing to-day. When and by whom were
raised these mysterious monuments? No one can
tell. The Arthurian legends are associated with
Brittany. The "Breton Lays," translated by Ula-
ric of France from the Keltic into French and
dedicated to Henry II of England furnish proof
In these little journeys together we shall visit
the country of Du Guesclin, a name which is to the
Breton what that of Washington is to us, William
Tell to a Swiss or Garibaldi to an Italian. We
shall make our pilgrimage to the grotto of Abe-
lard and Heloise the scene of the love and tears
of the unhappy pair after their flight from Paris.
We shall visit the castle of that odious personage,
Gille de Rais, a Breton lord of the twelfth cen-
tury whose unhandsome exploits furnish the stuff
of which one of the Bluebeard legends was made.
At Paimpol we are to meet the fisher folk of Pierre
Loti's "Pecheurs d'lslande." At Carhaix we find
the souvenirs of La Tour d'Auvergne, First Grena-
AN INTRODUCTION TO BRITTANY 7
dier of France. We shall visit Guerande, the scene
of Balzac's "Beatrice," and Sarzeau, birthplace of
Le Sage, where, under the myrtles and fig trees of
his little garden he wrote his "Gil Bias" and "Tur-
caret." And we shall often cross the path of Anne
of Brittany, twice Queen of France. At Concar-
neau and Pont Aven we shall pause to note the
mise-en-scene of Blanche Willis Howard's story of
"Guenn." We shall see Carnac where stand the
rows on rows of grey stones as they stood when
Caesar found them over two thousand years ago.
And the Chateau des Rochers, where were written
most of the "Letters" which have made the name
of Madame de Sevigne famous. And Pornic and
Croisic, where, during those summers after Mrs.
Browning's death, the Poet sought a wilderness
and where he wrote some of his best-known poems.
And three places — St. Malo, La Chenaie and Tre-
guier associated with three great names, Chateau-
briand, Felix de Lamennais and Ernest Renan.
All these and many more names are associated
with this our Province of France, and furnish the
biographical interest of Brittany to the student of
this feature of history — of human history.
HISTORY OF BRITTANY
BEFORE getting further under way it is a duty
to speak of the history of Brittany. Of course, if
one studies Brittany seriously one must read the
six volumes of La Borderie's History of Brittany,
but we give only the merest outlines. These are
roughly as follows: Thousands of years before
Christ, according to Jubainville, the highest au-
thority on Keltic history, the Kelts left their
mountains in the Orient and emigrated westward.
In one of these great emigrations they peopled
Gaul and the Westward Islands (now Great Brit-
ain). Fifteen centuries ago Rome came to con-
quer Gaul and while all Gaul became Gallio-Ro-
man that province named Armorica (now Brit-
tany) was especially under the Roman domination.
When the invasion of Italy by the barbarians oc-
curred and Rome, weakened in power, lost her
prestige, its hold on Armorica relaxed. Then came
the Saxons. In Armorica as in Great Britain they
killed, pillaged, burned. In Great Britain, after
HISTORY OF BRITTANY 9
fierce resistance, they established themselves; in
Armorica they destroyed and then abandoned it.
During the Roman domination and after the
Saxon invasion most of the Armoricans had fled
to Wales and Ireland, these countries being less
under Saxon domination. But in the fifth century
when the Saxons pressed too hard in the Islands
the Kelts began, what is called in Breton history,
"The Great Emigration." Seeking a new country,
the nearest shores they found were old Armorica.
Then began the Little Brittany, as they named it
in contradistinction from the Great Britain. Dur-
ing three centuries ship followed ship in one long
and memorable exodus, bringing men to defend
and saints to guide these pilgrims in the new coun-
try. And thus the Bretons to-day greet as brothers
the Kelts of Wales, Ireland, North Scotland, the
Isle of Man and Cornwall.
Brittany has been theocratic under the Druids,
Roman under Roman rule, feudal under her
dukes and counts, a kingdom under her early mon-
archs and finally, when her last duchess, Anne of
Brittany, became Queen of France, Brittany be-
came a Province of that country, thus varying
politically from the three thousand years before
Julius Caesar came to conquer Gaul, where he
found the Druids in possession, to the French
Caesar was her first historian and, as poets were
among her early annalists, many fables are mingled
io THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
with the history of Brittany. One genealogist
under Greek influence makes Hercules coming
from Africa, pass through Gaul where he mar-
ried the nymph Kelto, thus giving birth to the
Kelts. Another under Latin influence makes Brit-
tany begin with the inevitable TEneas. Some
Breton legends go so far back as Noah, affirming
that he landed from the ark on the river Loire.
Another legend dates from Paradise, holding that
Eve spoke the Breton language. Upon these we
must not insist, it being quite sufficient to know that
the Keltic language was used by the inhabitants of
our Province when Caesar invaded Gaul. Without
going back to Moses it is shown that the Breton
race allies itself with the present through the Ro-
mans, hence in the study of the Breton history one
must consult the "Commentaries" of the Conqueror
The Bretons of the Continent hated the Saxon
with a hatred equal to that of the Bretons of the
Islands and the two Brittanys were allies during
the wars of that period. The history of the two
fraternal Brittanys covers the period from the time
of Caesar's invasion of Gaul, fifty-eight years be-
fore Christ, to the fifth century of the Christian
The two Brittanys were the double centre of
Druidism, the Great Gallic Theocracy. The
domination of the Romans lasted four hundred
years. The ancient history of Brittany may be
HISTORY OF BRITTANY n
said to have ended with the arrival of Clovis and
Christianity, when begins the mediaeval history of
the Province. Druidism was the serious obstacle
which Christianity encountered. It resisted long
in Armorica. But it finally merged into the New
Faith and by degrees as an ancient historian has
so well expressed it: "The clan and confederation
of Druidism became Feudality; the pact of friend-
ship of the Druid became chivalry; the assemblies
of the leaders became the parliaments of the
nobles; the ovates of the Druids became the sor-
cerers of the Middle Age; the bards were changed
into popular singers, elves and fairies took the
place of Druids and Druidesses; the Druidic fetes
of the lake were supplanted by fetes of the foun-
tain; the duels of the Druidic feasts became the
tournaments of the knights."
Through all this changing from Druidism to the
New Faith, the Christian fathers were wise and
patient. Joseph de Maistre names the early bish-
ops "those Christian Druids" and says of them:
"They grafted the Christian Faith upon the oak
of the Druid — planted the Cross upon the dolmen
— the new poets did not break the harp of the
ancient bards, they only changed a few of its
From the fifth century until 1492, when Anne
of Brittany became Queen of France, the records
of the various wars are full of dramatic and ro-
mantic interests. There were wars in which Eng-
12 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
land and France strove to wipe each other out of
existence — wars whose annals include the names of
Jeanne d'Arc and Du Guesclin, in which Brittany,
alas ! was too often the battlefield of the two ambi-
With these extremely slight historical sugges-
tions let us set out upon our travels.
CHARTRES, VITRE AND LES ROCHERS
By TAKING an eight o'clock morning train at
Montparnasse station one may travel from Paris
to Chartres on a summer day and be able to stop
off for a few hours for a glimpse of the wonderful
cathedral, still reaching Vitre by daylight — this
being our first objective point in Brittany. In-
deed, how can one pass through Chartres without
a passing glimpse of the rare monument which in-
spired the poem of James Russell Lowell and fur-
nished material for Huysman's rare book, "La Ca-
While Huysman's book offers great advantages
in the study of the Cathedral technically and oth-
erwise, the traveller is even more grateful to the
author of a more recently published book written
by Henry Adams, entitled, "The Cathedrals of
Mont. St. Michel and Chartres." In this book
we realize the Virgin enthroned in the sculptured
shrines of the Cathedral, and emblazoned in the
jewelled glass of that marvellous East Window.
As Virgin, Mother of God, Womanhood and
i 4 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
Motherhood have been translated and defined in a
rare magnificence of repetition and detail and the
people of the mediaeval period were silenced in
awe and adoration. Even the modern soul can-
not fail to be impressed by the splendid embodi-
ment of Woman in the Cathedral of Chartres.
Of course a serious appreciation of this glorious
monument requires long visits and much study even
when armed with the two books we have named.
But a glimpse in passing is worth while as a be-
ginning and the three hours spent in Chartres on
our journey through Brittany serve to inspire and
prepare for future experiences. Before taking our
train for Vitre we lunch in the open at one of the
little cafes of the town and thus take an early
It is sunset when our train arrives at Vitre.
The hour when the walls and towers of this fine
old feudal town, golden in the evening glow, are
seen at their finest.
In all France there remain but three mediaeval
towns which have preserved their feudal aspect —
Avignon in the South of France, for many years
the Papal Seat — Guerande and Vitre, both in Brit-
There is a certain little inn near the station
called the "Hotel des Voyageurs," reasonably com-
fortable. It has a rival over the way which
bears the high-sounding title of "The Steward of
Madame de Sevigne" writ large upon its front.
CHARTRES, VITRE AND LES ROCHERS 15
Whether the virtues of this personage of two cen-
turies ago have been transmitted to his descend-
ants we cannot say.
Vitre has but one church — old and interesting,
but not important. It was formerly a priory. The
facade is formed of seven gables. An exterior
pulpit of the fourteenth century of pure Gothic
style, placed there, tradition has it, in order to
oppose the public sermons of the Calvinists uttered
from an exterior pulpit of the Chateau near by, is
worth noting, it being one of the finest examples of
its kind of which there are very few in existence.
The Colignys introduced Calvinism into Vitre and
during the wars of the League the castle served as
one of the armories of the Huguenots.
We stroll about the narrow streets. Ancient
houses built upon pillared galleries, each story
projecting beyond the one below, almost meeting at
the summit its neighbour over the way, making a
pell-mell of dormer-windows, sculptured cornices
and chimneypots — such are numerous in medieval
Vitre. And there are several interesting antiquity
shops — an attractive feature to many of us!
But Vitre, interesting in itself, is not the chief
object of this visit, which is to see the chateau of
Les Rochers, the home of Madame de Sevigne,
and next morning we secure a good horse, car-
riage and driver for the modest sum of six francs
and make the excursion thither three miles from
MADAME DE SEVIGNE'
ALTHOUGH Madame de Sevigne was born in
Paris (you know the little house in the Place des
Vosges), most of her short married life and her
long widowhood were passed at the Chateau Les
Rochers. It is chiefly with her associations with
Brittany that we have to do. Through the vivid
records in the "Letters" we see her making the
journeys from Paris to Vitre, an affair of eight or
nine days and thus described: "It was a veritable
cavalcade," she writes, "two open carriages, seven
carriage horses, two men on horseback and upon a
pack-horse the bed is carried to serve at the inns
en route." She took measures against dullness by
choosing agreeable friends for fellow travellers
and she carried along the favorite books. They
talked; they read Racine and Corneille and Nic-
ole; they enjoyed the scenery. The good uncle, the
"bien bon" of the "Letters" always made one of
the party and often her son Charles, who appears
to have been a most agreeable companion.
MADAME DE SEVIGNE 17
And we note other journeys — those from Vitr6
back to Paris where at the court of Louis XIV at
Versailles a welcome always awaited this clever
and charming woman. And we accompany her on
the occasional visits to her daughter in Provence
and to the waters of Vichy for her recurrent rheu-
matism. Many an author is seen at his best in his
travel notes; our chatelaine of Les Rochers is no
exception. When she travels in these "Letters,"
the reader vividly accompanies her.
The late Gaston Boissier of the College de
France in his delightful sketch of the famous let-
ter-writer says: "It is doubtless true of the 'Let-
ters' of Madame de Sevigne that the most
interesting thing in them is Herself." She wrote
with frankness. Most of her secrets she let slip
sooner or later from the point of her pen. Her
gossip charms, her frivolities enchant, her airy
nothings passed around among the court circle at
Versailles crystallized into bon mots and were held
worthy to be adopted and repeated by the great
When the brilliant Marie de Rabutin-Chantal
married the flippant Chevalier de Sevigne, of a
Breton family allied to the Du Guesclins and Clis-
sons, he was possessed of more estates than money.
We learn that he esteemed but did not love his
wife and that she loved but did not esteem him,
most people agreeing with her in respect to the
latter. We find the husband squandering his
18 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
dowry in gambling. We see him at the feet of
Ninon de l'Enclos as was his father before and his
son after him. For a quarter of a century later
in a letter to her daughter dated 1671 the mother
writes: "Your brother is under the spell of Ninon.
She ruined his father." When a duel fought over
a disreputable love affair takes the Chevalier off
we feel little regret. During the following years
she is at Les Rochers with her two children prac-
tising economies to repair the deficiencies caused
by the follies of the young husband.
From time to time she flits to Paris where in
1650 she made re-entry into society. And now we
associate her with that famous Hotel de Carnava-
let, still redolent with associations and souvenirs
of this witty woman. And we note the more se-
rious turn in her tastes for we find her at the Hotel
Rambouillet, a Salon then at its highest point of
distinction, where she met Racine, Corneille,
Voiture, La Fontaine, Moliere and the two tutors
of her girlhood, Chapelain and Menage. Among
all these we see her the precieuse she indeed was,
but with a preciosity free from the extravagancies
of her pedantic tutors who thereby suffered ridi-
cule in the comedy of Moliere: "Les Precieuse
We note that in the days of the Fronde, which
brought about great changes in her circle, she plays
her role of Frondeuse gaily and with her accus-
MADAME DE SfiVIGNfi
After the portrait by Mignard which still hangs in her bedroom
at Les Rochers, Vitre
MADAME DE SEVIGNE 19
Through these "Letters" we meet her at the
house of the Scarrons. And at the La Fayette's
where she with her hostess and Rochefoucauld
made a frequent and admirable trio. She is at the
Saturdays of Madame Scudery and often at the
theatre. We note the episodes, so-called love af-
fairs, in which the great Turenne and the Comte
de Lude failed to win her hand. And the Prince
de Conti and Fouquet were in the procession. But
she turns all her lovers into staunch friends.
Then she marries her daughter, "the prettiest
girl in France" (according to the mother), to a
Count of Provence, and we read the wonderful
mother letters that follow.
But the most attractive experiences of her life
are associated with Brittany. Through the "Let-
ters" we follow her day by day at Les Rochers.
We watch her planting the avenues of trees
through which we walk to-day. On October 28,
1671, she writes to her daughter: "I don't know
what you have done this morning, but as for my-
self I have been half knee deep in the dew taking
measurements. I am laying out winding avenues
all around the park which will be very beautiful.
If my son loves the woods and walking he will
bless my memory." It is to be feared that the
rather flippant Charles failed in this respect, but
her memory is blessed by the visitor who rambles
through these lovely avenues to-day.
And she reads. She reads all sorts of books,
20 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
grave and gay — Tasso in his own language, and
Roman History (Plutarch and Josephus) and
Nicole's "Treaty on Morals." Oh, how often she
seems to be reading that dull book! And Pascal
and Fenelon and others of the Port-Royalist group,
and Virgil ("in all the majesty of the Latin," she
writes), although it has been said of her Latin
that it went limpingly sometimes. And with so
much that is serious we welcome the arrival of
the son who promptly infuses somewhat of gaiety
into the group. For on these visits we catch the
laugh over chapters of "Rabelais" and the "Come-
dies of Moliere," of which the mother writes:
"My son reads us many a bagatelle of which he is
prince — comedies which he acts like Moliere him-
self, poems and novels. He is most witty and
amusing. He has kept us from taking up any
serious reading as we had intended. When he
leaves we shall resume our Nicole." And again:
"Charles reads us chapters of 'Rabelais' enough
to make us die of laughter."
We follow her to Vitre to the assembling of the
Breton Parliament when she tells us: "The din-
ners are so magnificent that one dies of hunger,"
and she flits back to Les Rochers whence she
writes: "I need to sleep, to eat, to refresh myself,
to be silent." And again : "At last, my daughter,
I have come back to my 'bien bonf my masons and
carpenters, and I am transported with joy." And
she rejoices like any child over the luxury of eat-
MADAME DE SEVIGNE 21
ing the huge slices of Breton bread and butter.
"How much better to be here all alone than in the
fracas of Vitre," she writes. One smiles at the
term "fracas" applied to the dear, dead, old Vitre
that one finds to-day.
From time to time occur the visits of the daugh-
ter — visits always shadowed with clouds of mis-
understanding, to be followed — once separated —
by repentances and self-reproaches on the part of
the daughter, who seems to have been a person of
strong character and little tenderness.
And we follow our chatelaine in many of those
lonely walks through the avenues of the park —
"All alone tete-a-tete," she puts it so characteris-
tically. The "Letters" admit the reader to a cer-
tain intimacy. Indeed the visitor of Les Rochers
to-day has the impression of having known the
Within the chateau we see the bedroom of
Madame de Sevigne, in which her portrait hangs
— that painted by Mignard, coiffed a la Grecque —
very decolletee — a mantle hanging in many folds
from the shoulder. And the canopied bed, the
book of accounts with the faithful gardener Pilois,
which we find more interesting than the transcrip-
tion of Virgil in her own handwriting, the powder
puff, brushes and other toilet articles — all impart
an intimate air to the apartment.
We find the garden as prim as when first laid
out after the plans of Le Notre and the veritable
22 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
orange trees of two centuries ago stand in the orig-
inal plan. The little chapel is quite intact with its
altar, pictures, sofas, chairs and other furnishings
of the period. This is the chapel so often men-
tioned in the "Letters," built by the "bien bon"
the Abbe de Coulanges whose economies in the
affairs of his niece seem not to have interfered with
a little mania of his own for building.
But it is the park with its avenues planted by
the faithful Pilois under her own eye that bring
the charming proprietor of Les Rochers nearest
us. These still retain the names she gave them:
"The Infinite," "The Solitary," "The House of
My Daughter," etc. The motto carved over the
entrance of the chateau suggests the spirit in which
the hospitalities of Les Rochers were offered by
its mistress : "Blessed Liberty. Do whatever you
Through the "Letters" not only the chateau but
its chatelaine becomes very real to the readers.
We come to know how everyday life went on. It
was in a simple quiet fashion thus described in a
letter to her daughter: "We rise at eight. I often
spend the hour until nine in the park breathing the
fresh air of the forest. At nine the bell rings for
mass. After mass we make our toilette and say
good morning to one another. We gather flowers;
we dine. Between dinner and five we read and
write. When I go to my avenues I have my books.
I plant myself wherever I like. I change places
MADAME' DE SEVIGNE 23
and I change books — for one a book of devotion,
for another history, and so on. At eight I hear a
bell. It is for supper. After which we sit in the
garden listening to the nightingales and breathing
the perfume of the orange blossoms."
Setting out for Paris she writes: "Adieu, my
poor Rochers, adieu, my books, my prie Dieu, my
dreams, my air castles, my lonely avenues, and our
gay little after-suppers! Adieu! happy domain of
the 'fa'niente.' "
We find ourselves equally loath to leave this
lovely spot, attractive not only through its own
charms, but so deliciously pervaded with the at-
mosphere and souvenirs of one of the most fas-
cinating women of France.
As an illustration of the influence of heredity
Madame de Sevigne furnishes a notable instance,
we note her two contrasting sides — the serious, the
religious, and that other in which piquancy, satire,
gaiety, elegance, and social charm are combined.
On the one side we trace the mysticism of the
grandmother, Madame de Chautal. On the other
bubbles the sparkling red blood of the Rabutins.
Two more opposing elements never met in the
veins of mortal woman. In this conjunction we
find the varied traits of Madame de Sevigne —
grave and gay — tender and satirical — charming
and cruel — enjoying alike "Rabelais" and "The
Lives of the Saints" — devote at the altar of the
little chapel of Les Rochers and at Versailles gaily
24 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
leading the dance as partner of the Sun King.
Vo'tla notre Chatelaine/
As a matter of fact many Bretons, while always
appreciating her genius as letter-writer and her
charm as mistress of Les Rochers, do not love
Madame de Sevigne. One is not surprised at this,
recalling that in more than one of the "Letters"
she recounts the acts of de Chaulnes the Governor-
General of Brittany, appointed by Louis XIV, who
erected gibbets all over the Province and hung
many hundreds of Bretons because they resisted
gross injustice and held to their traditions. And
these events were recorded by our letter-writer of
Les Rochers without a trace of sorrow, pity or ten-
derness. . For this reason at the recent inauguration
of a statue at Vitre in honour of Madame de Se-
vigne, many Bretons were conspicuous by their ab-
RENNES. DOL AND DU GUESCLIN
We REACH Rennes after two and a half hours
of travel from Vitre. Fifteen hundred years ago
Rennes was an interesting place. It was one of
two Capitals of Brittany, the seat of an Archbish-
op, and has always been a prominent military
point. Two rivers, the Ille and La Vilaine, join
their waters at this point, giving the name Ille-et-
Vilaine to this Department of Brittany. The
upper part of the town is handsome with its Palace
of Justice, Prefecture, Hotel de Ville, and Ca-
thedral, while the other end of the town contains
the Academies, the Lyceum, the University, and
the Museums. But to the traveller the few nar-
row, crooked streets which remain of mediaeval
Rennes are far more interesting. The Museums
are rich and important.
Rennes is the birthplace of many well-known
personages, among them Paul Feval the novelist,
26 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
the astronomer Binet, General Marbeuf, General
Boulanger, the political agitator, and Rennes will
long be remembered as the mise-en-scene of the
most notable trial of the century in France — that
of Captain Dreyfus. It was also the birthplace of
the philosopher Descartes.
The ancestors of Rene Descartes had for many
years worn the robe. His father was Councillor
of the Parliament of Brittany and the family was
one of the most aristocratic of the Province.
In the year 1596, this child came into the world.
His family would not have believed that through
him their name was destined to survive and that
the beginning of Modern Philosophy was to date
from this Breton town. For the richly robed
Councillor was unable to understand the shy, mod-
est, studious boy, and all Rennes considered Rene
Descartes a good-for-naught. A single day suf-
fices for Rennes and we pursue our journey toward
the coast where more real interests await us.
Our next stopping place is Dol — a queer little
town, ancient and interesting. In olden time Dol
stood in the heart of a mysterious forest. A legend
tells us that this forest, from whose sacred oaks the
Druids gathered mistletoe, was submerged by the
ocean which, regardless of precedent, threatened
to include the town. It was one Samson, formerly
Archbishop of York, now the first Bishop of Dol,
who came to the rescue. Through his prayers the
waves receded, leaving the town intact. But the
.••** I •■■■
PHOTO BY FRANCES
THE GREAT MENHIR OF DOL
RENNES, DOL AND DU GUESCLIN 27
forest was swept into the sea, parts of it attaching
themselves to the Islands of Jersey and Guernsey.
Many of these oaks were deposited during the
transit and have been found in the sands that sur-
round Mont St. Michel. Naturally Samson has
been the favourite Saint of Dol ever since. The,
Cathedral bears the name of this guardian of the
town and dates from the thirteenth century.
The disappearance of this druidic forest gave
rise to the famous Breton Legend of the Flood,
one incident of which is related thus: "As the
waters increased Amel the pastor and Penhor his
wife are upon the point of being submerged. At
this moment of peril Amel places Penhor, holding
their child in her arms, upon his head for safety.
As the water still rises, Penhor places the little
one upon her head. The flood mounts higher and
higher until the blonde head of the child and a bit
of its blue gown appear upon the surface of the
water. An angel flying heavenward perceives this
bit of blue and gold and says: "There's a little one
belonging to me," and proceeds to lift it. She finds
it difficult because attached to the little Raoul is
Penhor the mother, and she, in turn, is held fast
by Amel the father. The angel, smiling, drops a
tear as she beholds this cluster of hearts and will
not separate them."
The Cathedral of Dol, one of the most ancient
in Brittany, is worthy of a visit.
From Dol we travel to Pontorson. Pontorson is
28 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
embedded in books and legends and offers little ot
sightseeing to-day. It tells no modern story to the
traveller. It leads a humdrum life of its own, and
it is probable that none of its inhabitants, save pos-
sibly the librarian and curator of the museum, has
so much as heard of the soldier who, six centuries
ago, was creating something of a commotion
in its neighborhood. But in history Pontorson will
ever be associated with the story of a Bad Boy —
a Bad Breton Boy, who, contrary to all rules of
ethics, and with no hatchet legend to start with,
became the "Father of his Country" — the Protec-
tor of his Country. Pontorson was the field of
many a bold deed of the brave Captain — Bertrand
A Picardy poet — Cuvelier — is his biographer.
In the thirty thousand verses devoted to his sub-
ject, he tells us frankly that in all the country be-
tween Rennes and Dinan such a snub-nosed,
swarthy, boorish and disagreeable person could not
be found. He was ill-shapen and had greenish
eyes. But his arms and hands were like steel, and
in their lines one saw traces of good blood, such is
the portrait traced in the poem. Paul Deroulede,
in his play "Du Guesclin," gives a fine delineation
of the brave, brusque, intrepid Captain, which
role Coquelin interpreted to perfection, the ab-
sence of facial beauty in the great comedian doing
good service in his make-up, and the piece filled
the Porte St. Martin theatre in the season of , 95~ , 96
RENNES, DOL AND DU GUESCLIN 29
with applauding Parisian audiences to the one hun-
It is upon the fourteenth century trouvere, Cuve-
lier, and upon Breton legends that we must rely
for the story of the boy Du Guesclin. From these
sources we know that Bertrand was born in 1320,
and was the son of a Breton knight and noble dame.
The Du Guesclin had far less fortune than lineage.
So the beginnings of Bertrand were very modest
if not very exemplary. He was of a surly nature,
always in fights and turmoils, always striking or
being struck. A nursery legend has it that when
two years of age he had a way of amusing himself
with a stick which made him the terror of ser-
vants and visitors. Wherever he went a troop of
scapegraces followed him, quarrelsome, insolent,
imitating their leader. These he would arrange
in two lines and compel to fight until parents and
friends came to the rescue with poultices and plas-
ters. He took them upon thieving expeditions,
selling the booty at Rennes and coming home
bruised in body and with clothing torn from head
to foot. He made himself odious even to his par-
ents. One legend tells us that whenever this boy,
then at the age of nine, left his father's castle the
town crier and his bell warned the population of
Pontorson that Bertrand Du Guesclin was abroad.
After many escapes and a six-months' imprison-
ment in the tower of his father's castle, he escapes
and gallops off to Rennes to the house of his uncle.
30 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
Now this uncie was an old soldier and able to ap-
preciate such an extraordinary nephew, and we
find the merry pair eating and drinking, fencing
and riding from morning to night. The Bretons
have always been famous wrestlers. Even to-day
Paris and London sporting newspapers send cor-
respondents to the little town of Scaer in Finis-
tere to describe and photograph the wrestling
matches which take place in every August.
One Sunday there was a great wrestling match
in Rennes. A hat ornamented with a hundred
feathers was the prize offered to the victor. Judge
of Bertrand's emotions when his aunt, to prevent
his going to the match, took him to church with
her to hear a sermon! Luckily for the boy she
forgot to tie him to the bench as was her habit.
Between two points of the sermon she looked
around and he had vanished. Of course he turns
up at the match, wins the prize, and wears the
hundred-feathered hat home in triumph. Later
when sixteen years of age, at a great tourney held
in Rennes to celebrate the marriage of their duch-
ess, we see Bertrand mounted on a fine horse win-
ning fresh laurels. The fact of his father being
among the spectators adds zest to the story.
A certain beautiful maid of noble birth among
the spectators that day lost her heart to the con-
quering Bertrand. This was Typhaine Rageunel,
who afterward became his wife. He came to be
famous throughout Brittany and France for his
RENNES, DOL AND DU GUESCLIN 31
strength and bravery. Dinan, Pontorson and
Motte-Broon have furnished popular songs in
praise of him. He rose to be the greatest captain
of his time, was made Constable of France, and
became a close friend of his King, Charles V. At
his death his body was borne through the kingdom
in the midst of a population in tears, and he was
buried at St. Denis among the kings of France.
But Brittany claimed his heart and in the church
of St. Sauveur at Dinan a cenotaph in white marble
encloses this relic, above which is engraven the
arms of Du Guesclin. All this and much besides
we find in the thirty thousand verses of the poet
who has been named: "The Homer of Du Gues-
But after all a single utterance of the great
Breton soldier, taken from an address to his sol-
diers as they were about to enter upon a campaign,
gives the real keynote to his character.
In whatever country you may
Make war do not forget what I
Have told you a thousand times —
That the clergy, the women, the
Children and the poor are not
FOLK-LORE AND JEANNE DE PONTORSON
WHILE we are in the country of Du Guesclin we
should take note of one of its legends. For Pontor-
son, like every Breton town, has its legend — old
tales stored away in the memory of the people,
passing through many generations and repeated by
the Bretons to-day. The Pontorson ballad bears
the title : "The Vassal of Du Guesclin."
But before reciting this ballad let us speak for
a moment of the Breton folk-lore. It is doubtless
true that while History records the official deeds
of a people, we must seek the old songs to know
the intimate life of a race. How many historic
facts also hide themselves in legendary tales. Es-
pecially is the moral truth visible through the
transparent veil of the myth. Emile Souvestre
says beautifully: "The wind of a century sweeps
across a people and songs which tell what it saw
and what it felt are born. Each song is a chapter
of human life. It indicates the moral tempera-
ment of the people to which it belongs. Confided
to the memory of successive generations it retains
FOLK-LORE AND JEANNE DE PONTORSON 33
something of each, and the philologist and folk-
lorist find in the ensemble a foundation as easy to
decipher as does the geologist the strata which
The folk-lore of all peoples offers striking analo-
gies, being alike the na'ive expressions of the human
heart. The variations are caused by the ruling
characteristics of each nation, thus the expression
of the southern race is passionate and proud; that
of the northern people bold and warlike. The
folk-songs of Germany are often child-like, naive
and poetic. When we recall the "Tales of the
Thousand and One Nights," we evoke impressions
of the deep, blue, starry skies, gorgeous colours
and perfumes. The old songs of North Scotland
are warlike, bold, sometimes touched with gentle-
ness. As for the Breton muse it shares the sim-
plicity of the German, the gloom of the Scandi-
navian and the melancholy of the Scotch. In the
song: "The Vassal of Du Guesclin," as is often the
case in the Breton songs, the denoument is indi-
cated in the first few lines which serve as prologue.
It is composed of several short scenes which re-
cite the adventures of Jean of Pontorson and his
Captain Du Guesclin, who commanded the armed
troops of Pontorson in the wars against the Eng-
lish. M. Villemarque translated this ballad from
the Keltic into French. We give our rendering in
English which is, as are all translations, unsatisfac-
tory, even if faithfully rendered.
34 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
A great castle stands in the midst of a forest;
all around it deep water, at each corner a tower;
in the court of honour a pit filled with bones. And
the heap grows higher with every night.
The drawbridge of the castle falls easily, and
he who enters never departs.
Across the country held by the English a young
Knight rode swiftly.
A young Knight named Jean of Pontorson,
As he rode past the castle at nightfall,
He demanded hospitality of the chief sentinel.
— Dismount, Oh! Knight, dismount and enter the
And put your bay steed in the stable
Where he shall eat his fill of barley and of hay
While you shall sup at the table of the Lord of the
Now as he supped at table with the armed men
They spake not a word to Jean of Pontorson
It was as if they were drunk.
But they said to the young girl :
"Mount Begana to the guest chamber
And prepare the bed for this young knight our
FOLK-LORE AND JEANNE DE PONTORSON 35
When the great bell of the castle struck the hour
They led the young knight to the guest chamber.
Now Jean of Pontorson was singing in his cnam-
Singing gaily in his chamber
As he placed his ivory hunting horn by his bed-
But Begana, pale and sighing, stood waiting si-
— "Begana, my pretty sister, tell me something,
Why do you look at me thus and sigh?"
— "Alas! Alas! if you but knew, dear master,
You would not sing thus gaily in the night,
For under your pillow there is a dagger.
The blood of the third man they have slain
Is not yet dry upon the blade.
Oh! Knight, you are to be the fourth,
Your silver, your gold and your arms,
Everything except your bay steed have they taken."
Then Jean of Pontorson from under the pillow
Drew forth a dagger. It was red with blood.
— "Begana, dear sister, if you will but save me
I will give you five hundred golden sous."
— "I thank you, O Knight, but answer me first
Are you wedded? or are you not?"
36 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
— "I cannot deceive you, Begana, my sister,
Only a fortnight have I been wedded.
But I have three brothers, they are better than I,
If it please your heart choose one of them."
— "Nothing pleases my heart, neither man nor
Nothing pleases my heart but you, O Knight!
Follow me, the drawbridge will not hinder,
The sentry will not stop us, he is my brother."
— Then said the knight to Begana the maid :
"Mount, my sister, mount in the croup of my sad-
And we'll ride to Guingamp to find my Captain,
We shall see by what right I should have been
Let us ride to Guingamp where my right royal
Besieges the walls of Pestivien."
"Oh! People of Guingamp, I greet you,
I greet you in good faith. And my Lord Guesclin
Tell me in God's name where is he?"
— "If it is Lord Guesclin you seek,
You will find him in the low tower in the hall of
Then Jean of Pontorson, entering the hall,
Walked straightway to Lord Guesclin.
— "The grace of God be with you, my Lord Gues-
PHOTO BY FRANCE
THE VIRGIN OF RUMERGOL
FOLK-LORE AND JEANNE DE PONTORSON 37
God protect you. And may you protect Jean of
Pontorson, your vassal."
— "The grace of God be with you also who speak
He whom God protects should protect others.
But what can be done for you? Tell me in few
— "I have need of some one who will come to the
borders of Pestivien.
There are English there who oppress the people
of the country
Ravaging the country for seven leagues about,
Whoever enters there is slain without pity.
But for this young girl I also should have been
I should have been slain like many another.
I have here the dagger still red with their blood."
Then Du Guesclin cried out: "By the Saints of
So long as there shall be a live Englishman
There will be neither peace nor law.
Let them saddle my horse, let them bring me my
arms and we are off."
Now the Lord of the Castle from the high tower
of the battlements,
Jeering, demanded of Du Guesclin:
38 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
"Are you coming to a ball that you are thus tricked
You and your soldiers?"
— "Yes, by my faith! Lord Anglais, we are com-
ing to a ball
But it is not to dance, it is to make others dance,
To make you dance a jig which will not soon be
For when we are tired the devils will take our
At the first assault the walls trembled
And the castle shook to its foundations.
At the second assault three towers fell
And two hundred men were slain, then two hun-
At the third assault the gates were broken
The Bretons rushed in and the castle was taken.
The castle has been destroyed, the earth has been
And the laborer now passes in his cart,
And as he passes he sings:
"Although the Englishman be a wicked traitor
He shall not conquer Brittany so long as the stones
of the Druids shall stand."
The prophetic lines of this ancient ballad are
sung to-day by the beggar minstrels of Brittany.
Nor is Du Guesclin, Protector of Brittany, forgot-
MONT ST. MICHEL AND ITS LEGEND
STANDING boldly off the coast at the point where
Brittany joins her sister Province, Normandy, rises
Mont St. Michel — town, castle and monastery
combined. The town at the base of the rock, the
platform of the walls, the castle rising above the
wall, the monastery piled above the castle — and
all, as if it were glued to the enormous rock. This
gigantic pile stands in an estuary of the river
Couesnon, which separates the two Provinces. Ac-
cording to ancient chronicles both Normans and
Bretons claimed the Mount and some mildly scorn-
ful verses passed to and fro. The Bretons put it
"Le Couesnon dans sa folie
A mis le Mont en Normandie."
To which the Normans retorted:
"Si bonne n'etait Normandie
St. Michel ne s'y serait mis."
4 o THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
Normandy, whether by the gentle logic of her
rhymes or by more vigorous means, seems to have
gained undisputed possession and to-day her only
rival is the Bay of Cancale, which formerly at high
tide turned the Mount into an island, while in low
waters one reached the place on dry land.
An English poet has named Cancale "the blue,
savage, Norman bay" — "savage" because at the
equinoxial period when the tide rises, instead of
gradually advancing and receding, one great wave
sweeps to the base of the rock and surrounds it.
And woe betide the unlucky traveller if caught in
its swift course. At low tide the danger is great
because of the quicksands which, for centuries,
have been a terror to pilgrims and travellers. A
few years ago a causeway raised to a point of safety
was constructed, and to-day one may reach the
Mount without peril.
Mont St. Michel was already famous in those
days when brave knights rode away to the wars in
the Holy Land. To-day it is valued as a monu-
ment of art and for its ecclesiastical, civil and mili-
tary history. "Rock, city, stronghold, cathedral"
— representing the idea of Chivalry through
Charlemagne and of Christianity through St.
Louis, it stands a harmonious mass of grandeur and
The journey from Pontorson to Mont St.
Michel, until two years ago, was made by means of
a clumsy old diligence. A tram-car, alas ! now con-
MONT ST. MICHEL AND ITS LEGEND 41
veys passengers, but the ancient vehicle is often
preferred — always by us. The swing of it as it
rolls noiselessly along the sands provokes revery
and fancy. Flocks of sheep feed on the salt
marshes at our left. Our diligence plods along and
now we round a curve, and suddenly, as if swung
against the sky whose blue is fast turning to gold
as the sun goes down, looms the mighty Mount.
Its walls and towers and flying buttresses are ablaze
with sunset colours, while at its base the greys and
violets blend hazily into a harmonious mass, turn-
ing the solid masonry into dreamy lines of some
When we enter the first gate of the town, which
lies along the base of the rock, we are confronted
by a bit of history in the shape of two antiquated
cannon abandoned by the besieging English in
1434. We pass through a second gate, and, fol-
lowing the queer narrow street, find ourselves at
the entrance of the most enticing of kitchens. The
interior of Madame Poulard's cuisine offers a sub-
ject for a picture such as Teniers would have de-
lighted to paint. Before a deep broad chimney with
its roaring log fire stands our famous hostess. She
has been painted by artists, sung by poets, and is
known all over France as the Queen of Mont St.
Michel. A double row of chickens strung upon
long spits revolves slowly before the fire. They
have reached that climax of colour and crispness
that would tempt a saint into the sin of gluttony.
42 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
Madame Poulard, standing in the firelight, holds
the handle, six feet long, of an immense frying
pan in which an omelet — the famous traditional
omelet of the Mount — is foaming and browning.
She wears the daintiest of collars and cuffs, and a
large apron protects her tidy black gown. She
has never been known to lose her temper, nor has
she lost her fine complexion, although for over a
score of years she has roasted chickens and cooked
the omelets that have made her little inn famous.
The omelet, however, is not of her invention. It
is to the monks of France that we owe this as many
another good dish. We are told that the secret
of this historic omelet has come down through
centuries from the ancient kitchens of the
In this unique inn there is no bell, no office, no
answering boy. The dormitories are half way up
the mountain. After we have dined and taken
our coffee at one of the small tables outside in the
narrow street, we receive from our hostess a smil-
ing goodnight and a small paper lantern lighted
by a candle end, bearing on its exterior the legend :
"Poulard." A narrow flight of stone steps brings
us from the street to the top of the inner wall of
the town. We cross a bastion, round an eleventh
century tower, creep timidly under archways, climb
other flights of stone steps, mossy and worn, and
at length reach the dormitory. Each separate bed-
room commands a splendid view. We look down
MONT ST. MICHEL AND ITS LEGEND 43
into the narrow street where we lately took our
coffee and see other little lanterns dancing hither
and thither; we look up into the mysterious arches
of the monastery standing solemnly against the
night sky; and we look out and away across the
sand to the sea. Whether below, above or sea-
ward, all is weird and shadowy and dreamy in the
light of a young moon.
This moon has witnessed strange scenes in her
time. Where the Bay of Cancale now lies shining
in her light once stood oak forests wherein Druids
celebrated their mysterious rites.
Next morning our coffee and rolls came up to us
fresh from the hands of our hostess, after which
we explore the monastery. This must be always
done with a guide.
The monastery dates back to the year 704 when
St. Aubert, of a rich and noble family, and arch-
bishop of Avranches, was wont to dream and medi-
tate in the forest of Scissy. St. Michael appeared
to him in a dream and commanded him to build an
edifice on the mountain in honour of him. At first
St. Aubert put no faith in the vision nor did a
second appearance move him. But a third mani-
festation convinced his doubtful mind. It was
claimed by some that in the strenuousness of this
last appeal the finger of the archangel made its
impression upon the forehead of the saint and
some ardent polemics have resulted. The ques-
tion has, however, been settled for the skull of St.
44 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
Aubert treasured in a church of Avranches shows
"an oblong opening in the right pariental bone
large enough for a finger to enter it!"
St. Aubert constructed an edifice which was at
first little more than a grotto. Finally a small
temple was built and a college of twelve monks
established. This little group found in St. Mi-
chael an ever faithful ally, always aiding in any
dilemma by miraculous means.
Later on Pilgrimages began to take place.
Every Pope sent valuable relics; every King and
Emperor in Christendom went as pilgrims to the
Mount, carrying rich offerings. Charlemagne
added greatly to its fame. Dukes and Counts of
the Province placed treasures at the feet of the
statue which surmounted the temple. Mont St.
Michel became a fad with popes, kings and
The place figures in the Song of Roland, the
Epic of France. And here a Knight of the Round
Table slew a horrible giant who had for seven
years subsisted on young children, but by way of
variety one day seized the Duchess of Brittany
and carried her off to his cave on the Mount. Thus
the Mount figures in legends two hundred years
earlier than the period of that of St. Aubert.
Poets and novelists have found rich material here.
The German poet Uhland makes use of one of the
best-known legends in one of his poems, which our
own Longfellow expresses in part in the verses
MONT ST. MICHEL AND ITS LEGEND 45
under the title: "The Castle by the Sea." Paul
Feval has written many stories in which the
legends of Mont St. Michel play a part. In the
eleventh century when Robert the Devil of Nor-
mandy was having his fling, his mad pranks fur-
nished much gossip at the Mount. And the deeds
of his son William the Conqueror added to its
glory. The Mount makes its first and only ap-
pearance in tapestry in the story woven by the
Duchess Matilda's fair hands as she sat among
her maidens and illustrated the story of her gal-
lant lord in the curious web of the Bayeux Tapes-
try. In one of the panels Harold is dragging two
of his companions out of the treacherous quick-
sands. Another panel describes other disasters in
crossing the sands. She places figures curiously in
the drawing — a minute temple is perched on the
summit of a green hillock.
As we wander through the gloomy arches see-
ing on one hand the dungeons — veritable holes
whence prisoners were seldom brought out alive
— on the other hand oubliettes — all those under-
ground horrors which some writer has named : "the
black entrails of Mont St. Michel," we are op-
pressed with the gloomy tales these granite blocks
tell. In one of the lower vaults of the Abbey stood
the "iron cage of the Cardinal." In the darkest of
the dungeons many victims imprisoned by Louis
XIV died of cold and hunger and gnawed by rats.
Through these gloomy corridors, at one epoch of
46 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
his imprisonment, walked the "Man of the Iron
Mask." It is dark, a terrible record.
The "Crypt of the Large Pillars" — twelve enor-
mous columns, each twelve feet in circumference
— excited wonder. But it is a relief to leave these
dismal regions and ascend to the more cheerful
"Hall of the Knights," which shows the more
human side of the monastery. It is pleasant to
imagine the gathering knights in mediaeval times
when, bent on quest or tourney, they flocked to the
Mount, sure of right royal cheer, for the monks of
Mont St. Michel were noted for their hospitality.
What turning of spits and unearthing of old wines
took place at such times! What fires must have
blazed in these wide-throated chimneys inside
which a score of knights might stand! What rat-
tling of armour and clanking of spurs and greet-
ing of brothers-in-arms ran through these spacious
halls! And we wander, up and down, and outside
we stand on dizzy heights. From one of the tow-
ers we admire the delicate flying buttresses. From
a parapet we see the pinnacles and dainty carvings
of the "Escalier des Dentelles" And we find our-
selves in grim company up among the gargoyles
— dogs, dragons, griffins, all sorts of fantastic, im-
possible beasts — a solemn and silent company
sternly guarding the secrets they know.
Louis XIV converted parts of the Abbey into a
prison. Louis XV continued to use it in the same
manner. In 1790 the monks were dispersed and
MONT ST. MICHEL AND ITS LEGEND 47
the entire Abbey was used as a prison into which
the Revolutionists hustled three hundred from Av-
ranches and Rennes. Finally the Convention con-
verted the place into a state prison. In 181 1
Napoleon made it a Capital House, and the Res-
toration turned it into a prison of Correction.
Between 1793 and 1863, more than fourteen thou-
sand prisoners were placed at Mont St. Michel.
Many mutilations are the result of these changes.
It has remained for the Ecole des Beaux Arts of
France to do justice to the value of this historic
place, by purchasing it, thus restoring to France
a monumental treasure alike valuable to archaeolo-
gist, artist, historian and ooet — to church and state.
This description was written before the death of Madame
ST. MALO AND CHATEAUBRIAND
OUR travels thus far have been within the limits
of that Department of Brittany known as Ille-et-
Vilaine. We now enter the Department of the
C6tes-du-Nord. A journey of two hours by rail
from Pontorson brings us to St. Malo.
St. Malo, built upon an island at the mouth of
the river Ranee and connected in earlier times to
the Continent by a causeway, has always repre-
sented the ideal town of the mariner. It was, as it
were, a huge ship anchored to the rocks. Many
an adventurous sailor and explorer has hailed from
this town by the sea, among them Jacques Cartier,
the discoverer of Canada, and Jean Cadnec, a bold
mariner, who, having landed on the island of
Madagascar, so won the hearts of the natives that
they made him their king. But after a few years
he was seized with that homesickness which is
sure to overcome the Breton absent from his Prov-
ince, and he planned to return to his own country.
So beloved by his subjects had he become that they
ST. MALO AND CHATEAUBRIAND 49
preferred him dead to absent and in order to keep
him to themselves, affectionately poisoned him.
Still another St. Maloin on the list of famous mari-
ners was Duguay-Trouin. His name has taken on
somewhat of the fabulous, so ubiquitous and all-
conquering was he, whether the hostile fleet were
English, Dutch or Spanish.
The streets of St. Malo are narrow and gloomy.
But mount the ramparts and make a tour of the
city. From these the view of land and sea is su-
perb. Landward, the valley of the Ranee smil-
ingly follows the course of its river, and seaward
we have a broad ocean view, with Dinard close at
hand. On a granite rock which at high tide is en-
tirely surrounded by the sea, is the tomb of Cha-
teaubriand. The simple low cross — whether from
Christian humility or from vanity of the Poet —
bears no inscription indicating the name of him
who is entombed within the granite rock. In a
chamber of our Hotel de France, which bears the
number five, Chateaubriand was born in 1770.
His name is held in great honour in St. Malo
where his house and tomb are visited by travellers,
his statue is on the chief public square and his
portrait — that by Girondet, painted in 1809, al-
ways the favorite one — is in the museum.
Not too distant for an agreeable excursion is the
Chateau at Combourg, where the childhood of
Chateaubriand was passed. His account of that
dreary chateau — the stern, unsympathetic, tyran-
50 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
nical father — the timid, frightened mother — the
awe-struck brother and sister sitting in the dark
corner holding hands — the lonely days and nights
passed by the boy in a remote attic of the chateau
— the one ray of sunshine being the loving friend-
ship of the sister Lucille — all these chapters are
poignant — unforgetable.
The young Chateaubriand was a dreamer. But
his father's plans were for practical studies.
Hence he mastered his logarithms at the college
of Dol, consoling himself for this drudgery by
reading a good deal of Horace. From Dol to the
college of Dinan, after which he was sent to Brest
to study the art of naval construction. It appears
that he had a habit of peering beyond the ship-
yard far out upon the sea. Practical studies van-
ished in dream's vagaries. Finding that his
father's plans were likely to end in nothing, they
tried the mother's — to make a priest of him. But
when we follow this young Breton out into the
world, it is not as priest. He is still only a
Paris was on the verge of a Revolutionary strug-
gle. Malesherbes, who was a family connection,
took pity on the young man and sent him off upon
those travels which brought him to our shores.
This was in 1791. Armed with letters to General
Washington, he embarks at St. Malo and lands in
Baltimore, which he describes as "a pretty town,
clean and animated." His impressions read to-
FRANCOIS AUGUSTE RENE DE CHATEAUBRIAND
ST. MALO AND CHATEAUBRIAND 51
day are curious and interesting. For instance he
finds "Philadelphia lacking in ancient monuments,
and the people have customs rather than man-
ners — a society without ancestry and without
souvenirs, but great elegance in clothing, luxury
in equipage, frivolity in conversation and immor-
ality in the banking houses."
Boston makes a happy escape. Recalling the
impressions of Philadelphia, one trembles at the
thought of the opinion our traveller might have
had of the city on Beacon Hill. But when our
explorer visits that town it is for the sole purpose
of making a pilgrimage to Lexington to salute
the first battlefield of American Liberty. He
writes : "I have seen the Field of Lexington. Like
the traveller to Thermopylae I stood there silent
and reverent." He finds New York gay, crowded
He gives his first impressions of General Wash-
ington of whom he speaks as "The Dictator." See-
ing him pass in a carriage he writes: "According
to my ideas Washington was nothing less than a
Cincinnatus, and Cincinnatus in an ordinary car-
riage upset somewhat my Roman-Republic ideas.
But when I took my letters of introduction to this
great man I found in him the simplicity of the old
Roman." We find that he was cordially received
by General Washington, and, winning his way by
some happy response, was invited to dinner. Long
afterward, in 1822, he writes of this meeting: "I
52 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
am happy in the remembrance that his eyes have
rested upon me. There is virtue in the glance of a
He finds his mission as explorer rather sterile,
for he had started with great ideas concerning the
North-West Passage. But he conscientiously
crossed the Blue Mountains, and, arriving at Chil-
licothe, he encounters the muse of his future ro-
mance "Natchez." And on the shores of the
river Ohio he finds that the New World possesses
ancient monuments. In the mounds of that region
he sees the debris of ancient civilization. More-
over he discovers what an American sunset is like,
and he paints it on future pages. And he sees
Niagara, and visits the Indian Nations. But as
explorer and recorder he is far more poetic and
romantic than practical, and his observations yield
their only harvest in his three books: "Rene,"
"Atala" and "Natchez." His temperament fitted
him for the place he held in French literature —
as pioneer in the Romantic School of writers in
which Lamartine, Alfred de Vigny, Victor Hugo,
Alfred de Musset and Beranger find their place.
As years pass we see Chateaubriand in many and
diverse phases. As royalist banished to the Isle
of Jersey and to England, where in London in a
mansard in Holborn he reads day and night books
ancient and modern. We note the passing ro-
mance of. Charlotte Ives — a romance that ended
with the knowledge that her chevalier was already
ST. MALO AND CHATEAUBRIAND 53
married. For a money-marriage had been ar-
ranged for him by his family in which we find
only feeble glimmers of affection late in life.
From England back to Paris, where he pub-
lished his first book and frequented the teas of
Madame O'Larry, where his proud and melan-
choly air sufficed to make him the hero of the
circle. Later on we see him among other friends
— Fontanes, the Delilles and the delicate and ad-
mirable Joubert, who became his affectionate ad-
mirer and at the same time his salutary critic.
The publication of his "Genius of Christianity,"
chancing to be coincident with the "Concordat,"
caused France to believe that a veritable religious
renaissance had dawned. Chateaubriand suddenly
found himself famous.
Then comes the friendship of Madame de Beau-
mont, which was a real providence to him. At
her salon in the Rue Neuve-du-Luxembourg he be-
came the central figure. Joubert thus describes the
circle: "It was a modest group — the debris of the
Terror — a tranquil intimate company gathered
around a single lamp, to whom a modest glass of
eau sucree or of orangeade sufficed for refresh-
ment." Later on we see him pay hommage to
Napoleon and accept a position in the Embassy at
Rome. Madame follows him and dies there.
Then came years of alternate triumph and failure,
and lastly, himself forty -eight and Madame Reca-
mier thirty-nine — from 1816 to 1848 — we follow
54 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
him through the period of their friendship. He
sends her a letter every morning and the invariable
daily visit at three in the afternoon afforded the
inhabitants of the rue de Sevres, it is said, the
means of regulating their timepieces. At the fre-
quent receptions of Madame Recamier — the
charming hostess of the Abbaye-aux-Bois — we lis-
ten to him in the reading of his "Memoirs," which
were the especial preoccupation of his hostess.
Among the listeners we find Miss Edgeworth,
Miss Berry, the Duchess of Devonshire, Benja-
min Constant and Sainte-Beuve, and later on
Prosper Merimee, Toqueville, Victor* Hugo and
Lamartine. And then in 1848, he dies in the little
house in the rue de Babylon. But always we find
Chateaubriand turning towards Brittany with
loyal affection. Years before his death he had
chosen for his tomb this rock of St. Malo. On
July fourth, of the fiftieth anniversary of the death
of Chateaubriand, we joined a brilliant group of
French men of letters, gathered in the old town of
St. Malo. In the morning high mass in the Cathe-
dral and a sermon by Pere Olivier, the eloquent
preacher of Notre Dame, an oration by Brune-
tiere in the afternoon and a banquet in the evening,
an immense procession in which the peasants of
all the country about joined made a pilgrimage to
the tomb where eminent Academicians spoke —
altogether a great day for St. Malo and an honour
to the name of Chateaubriand.
ST. MALO AND CHATEAUBRIAND 55
A few feet from the tomb of Chateaubriand we
find the birthplace of another whose fame bids fair
to equal that of the author of the "Genius of Chris-
tianity." But we like better to speak of Felix de
Lamennais under the oaks of La Chenaie a little
later on in our travels.
A FOLK-SONG OF ST. MALO
THE narrow streets of the old portion of St.
Malo are gloomy because of the medieval houses
which, like those we saw at Vitre, almost meet at
top above the narrow streets, so that from the
upper windows two people might converse in
whispers. That such opportunities were not lost
upon the Romeos and Juliets of the olden time is
apparent from a folk-song embodying a famous
legend of St. Malo.
The student of ancient Breton songs finds him-
self under infinite obligations to a woman. It was
Marie of France who has given us many of these
old songs, translated by her from the Keltic into
French and dedicated to Henry II of England —
lays of Tristram and Yseult, and of Parsifal. It
is to her we owe the translation of this old song:
While the Breton temperament finds its most
perfect expression in poems of adventure, in fan-
tastic tales, strange combats of men and beasts of
A FOLK-SONG OF ST. MALO 57
supernatural power, tales of magic fountains and
miracles, the Breton did not scorn a love song and
a very human one such as we now quote.
Like the Pontorson ballad which we have given
the denouement is indicated at the start. We fore-
see the pathetic ending in the two verses which
form the Prologue. Thus:
"A young wife of St. Malo was weeping yesterday
at her dormer window,
Alas! Alas! I am lost, my poor nightingale is
Then the story begins :
"Tell me, my young wife, why do you rise so otten?
So often from my side, so often from your bed at
Bare head and bare feet? Why do you thus rise
— "If I rise, dear lord, at midnight from my bed,
It is because I love to see the great ships come and
go in the bay."
' — "It is surely not for a ship that you go so often
to the window,
It is not for a ship, neither for two ships, nor for
It is not to watch the ships nor is it for the moon
Madame, tell me why every night you thus rise?"
— "I rise to watch my little baby in his cradle."
58 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
— "Neither is it to watch a baby — to watch a baby
I have no need of tales being told to me. Why do
you thus rise?"
— "My little old man do not be anxious, I am go-
ing to tell you,
It is the nightingale that I hear every night sing-
Sitting on the rosebush in the garden.
It is a nightingale that I hear every night. He
sings so sweetly,
So marvellously, so harmoniously all the night
All the night long when the sea is calm.
When the old Duke heard this he pondered in the
depths of his heart.
When the old Duke heard this he spake thus to
— "Whether this be true or whether it be false
The nightingale shall be caught."
Next morning upon rising he sought the gardener.
— "Good gardener, listen to me, there is something
which troubles me,
There is in the thicket a nightingale,
A nightingale that does nothing but sing all the
That sings the whole night long so loudly that it
If by this very evening you shall have caught it
I will give you a golden sou."
A FOLK-SONG OF ST. MALO 59
The gardener, having heard this, laid a little snare
And caught the nightingale and brought it to his
And when the Duke saw it he laughed from the
bottom of his heart.
And he strangled it and threw it in the white bosom
of his wife.
— "Here, here, my young wife, here is your pretty
It is for your sake that I have strangled it.
I dare say, my beauty, that it will give you joy."
Learning the news, the young lover at his dormer
over the way
Said sadly: "We are suspected, my sweet one,
And never again shall I see her at her window
At midnight in the moonlight as I was wont to do."
The thesis of this song, "The Nightingale," is
quite popular with the Breton. Given an old and
jealous husband, a young and beautiful wife, and
an admiring young man at a distance and the cast
is complete. There are three distinct Bluebeard
legends in Breton folk-lore, the most thrilling of
which has been wonderfully told by Leconte de
Lisle in his "Poemes Barbares," but of these later
A ferry crossing of fifteen minutes brings one
from St. Malo to Dinard, the most fashionable sea-
6o THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
shore resort in France. To heighten its attraction
for Americans it is named the Newport of France.
To a serious traveller in Brittany Dinard has lit-
tle to say. But a charm lingers on the cliffs of St.
Enogat, a mile from Dinard. Almost the first
letter, perhaps the very first written by Robert
Browning after the death of his wife, was ad-
dressed to his friend Lord Leighton. A sentence
from this letter gives the immediate plans of the
Poet thus : "I shall go to some quiet place in France
to get right again — I don't mean to live with any-
body, even my own family, but to occupy myself
thoroughly, etc." In August — Mrs. Browning
having died in June — we find him at St. Enogat.
On these cliffs he used to take those long lonely
walks described in his letters.
DINARD, DINAN AND EXCURSIONS
INSTEAD of wasting time in Dinard let us board
the little steamer that plies the river Ranee from
St. Malo to Dinan. The valley of the Ranee is
a continuous scene of rocks and verdure, of sunny
shores, of old manor houses and castles of feudal
Brittany and gay villas of modern Brittany. For
not until we reach Finistere shall we really find
our unspoiled Province, although a romantic in-
terest pervades this section through which we are
Our boat passes the tower of Solidor — "Ram-
pared Solidor" of Browning's poem "Herve Riel."
Not until we approach Dinan do we see the cha-
teau de la Belliere with its seven octagonal chim-
neys with capitals and pinnacles — otherwise a plain
structure of granite, as melancholy as the avenue
of fir-trees leading to the entrance. It was at la
Belliere that Typhaine, the wife of Du Guesclin,
spent the greater part of her life. Here she
wrought her tapestries, prayed in her oratory, con-
62 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
ducted the affairs of her household and here she
died. In her chamber we see a fine tapestry, a
prie Dieu and a Crucifix.
Typhaine Du Guesclin had the reputation of be-
ing a clever woman. The blue stocking of her
Province, it would appear — and she seems beside
to have been a paragon of beauty, sweetness and
devotion. She loved her rather ferocious husband
from that day when she saw him as we did, an un-
known competitor, enter the lists at the tournament
at Rennes and win the laurels from his rivals. It
was whispered about among the castles of the
Ranee that Typhaine was versed in the science of
astrology. But perhaps her chief skill lay in di-
vining the nature of her warrior husband and
turning his prowess into generous and patriotic
channels. For her biographers have called her:
"The conscience of Du Guesclin." She may or
may not have lingered among the chimneys of her
castle to consult the constellations, but she knew
how to read the heart of her lord which she be-
lieved to be just and generous. Truly the walls of
La Belliere five and a half centuries ago sheltered
two very exceptional personages.
fimile Souvestre has described Dinan as "cor-
seted in antique walls, dotted with smiling little
houses and embroidered with flower gardens."
This description is as true as it is poetic. Such is
Dinan to-day. But it is the story of the ancient
Dinan town of the old dukes and counts, scene of so
DINARD, DINAN AND EXCURSIONS 63
many thrilling adventures of the knights of medie-
val history that most interest the traveller. The
town is placed boldly upon a height of a hundred
and fifty feet on the left shore of the Ranee and
thus occupied an impregnable position in time of
war. A statue of Du Guesclin on the public square
marks the scene of the famous duel between him
and Canterbury, fought in the presence of the most
valiant knights and noble dames of Brittany and
ending in the proud victory of the Breton Cap-
tain. Narrow and crooked streets with ancient
houses are numerous.
The environs of Dinan claim special attention.
A drive of four miles brings us to the ruins of a
sixteenth century castle. Some splendid granite
walls and an octagonal three-storied tower of the
style of the Renaissance with beautifully carved
windows are all that remain of the castle of La
Garaye. But the avenue, seven hundred feet long,
with its double rows of beech trees, is as beautiful
now as in the days when count and countess gal-
loped beneath its shade among the gay folk of the
country and their guests. For La Garaye was
noted for its hospitalities and the extravagant pur-
suit of pleasure on the part of its host. But mis-
fortune came. The Lord of La Garaye became an
invalid, and the Countess was crippled from a fall
from her horse, after which both seemed to have
been little less than saints. They went to Paris,
where they studied medicine, making diseases of
64 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
the eye a specialty, and afterwards built hospitals
on their estates, the ruins of which we find to-day.
Here they nursed the sick among the poor of all
the country about, devoting the remaining days of
their lives to this occupation. The story has now
become only the "Legend of La Garaye," but the
roses still clamber and blossom upon the ruined
tower of their castle. We gathered a handful of
the loveliest, for we had learned that the burial
place of the Lord and Lady of the Castle was out-
side a little church in the parish of Taden, a few
miles distant, and we had thought of placing some
of these very roses upon their tombs. This pious
pilgrimage was made the next day. The little
church of Taden is queer and ancient. We found
the tombs — very desolate and neglected they were
— in one of the angles of the outer walls of the
church, the carvings so nearly obliterated that we
made out the names and devices with difficulty.
We laid the roses upon the two barren, dusty
graves — the tribute of a passer-by, a foreigner,
three hundred years after the events which had
made the record of this Lord and Lady Bountiful
worthy of homage.
The Honourable Mrs. Norton follows a part of
the legend in one of her poems, and Mrs. Louise
Chandler Moulton has written a poem with the
title: "The Roses of La Garaye," in which she
twines a light modern fancy about the legend.
There are other excursions to be made from
DINARD, DINAN AND EXCURSIONS 65
Dinan. To the Abbey of Lehon only a mile dis-
tant, and to what remains of the castle of Coetguen.
The beggars of the C6tes-du-Nord still sing an
ancient ballad, "The Lady of Coetguen," which
tells the story of the beautiful Blanche of St. Malo,
married to a Lord of Coetguen; tells how she was
imprisoned in the dungeon of the great tower and
how she died in her gloomy prison. But space
forbids the telling of all the romantic tales which
cluster about the ruined castle of the Ranee — tales
of feudal Brittany and of her dukes and counts.
FELIX DE LAMENNAIS
BUT there is one excursion to be made from
Dinan which lies very near the heart.
To those who sympathize with the experiences
and sorrows of a man unfortunately born a cen-
tury before his time — to such as appreciate the
genius and the sacrifices of Felix de Lamennais,
this bit of paradise where he passed the only
happy years of his life becomes the shrine of a
loving pilgrimage. Doubtless many of us, at-
tracted by the charming mention made by Mr.
Mathew Arnold of Maurice de Guerin, had our
first glimpse of La Chenaie from the pages of the
journal and letters of this young poet of the south
of France — records of the period when he was one
of the group of disciples of the host of this fine old
manor house. The place possesses all the beauty
ascribed to it by the pen of the young poet who
had shivered through the rather gloomy winter
months. But it is far more valuable through its
association with the Breton whose printed words
FELIX DE LAMENNAIS 67
not only stirred the public of Paris, but made them-
selves felt at the Vatican. Here lived a man whom
France scorned and whom she buried like a
pauper. Sixty years later his ideas came to be, to
a certain extent, those of Pope Leo XIII and of
eminent sociologists. Some one has defined him
as a sociologist in the Church, in other words a
At St. Malo we saw the house in which he was
born in 1782 — thirteen years after Chateaubriand.
But it is at La ChenaTe that we like best to meet
him. Hither he was sent after the death of his
parents to spend his boyhood in the charge of an
uncle who was owner of this property. Although
he was ten years of age and remarkably intelligent,
he scarcely knew how to read. But there was a
library at La Chena'fe — a library in which there
were not only books of piety for edification, but
classics of Greece and Rome and the works of
Voltaire, Montaigne and Rousseau, as well as
books of theology and ecclesiastical history. To
one analyzing the mental and moral character of
Lamennais the man, the catalogue of the library
in which the young Felix browsed is a factor of
importance. The boy was given to escapades of
various kinds and the uncle, by way of punishment,
was in the habit of locking him in this library.
For the sake of amusing himself, he soon learned
to read. After which he devoured everything
which came to hand. His passion for reading be-
68 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
came such that he used to commit some little fault
in order to secure a fresh imprisonment.
In his twenties they made him priest. The
world now knows the unintentional wrong done
to the soul of the man who, under peculiar mental
conditions which he could not master, allowed
himself to be led into what proved a false step.
After a few years he is in Paris editing the
newspaper L'Avenir, aided by Lacordaire and
Montalembert, at that time his ardent disciples.
Of a nature as noble as it was sincere, ardent and
visionary, Felix de Lamennais dreamed of a kind
of progressive Christianity. He indicated to the
Church the only course that could lead it to a
reconciliation with modern nations. Every word
he uttered or wrote was chivalric and disinterested.
He besought the Church to separate itself from
the debris of kings and kingdoms, and to lend
itself to consider the miseries and sufferings of the
people — to apply the balm of comfort. He be-
lieved in a universal transformation of Society
under the influence of Catholicism. He sought
to reconcile Religion and Liberty. Meanwhile he
held Rome and Gregory XVI in affection. He
believed the Pope could but sympathize with the
aims and hopes of L'Avenir.
The bold doctrines of Lamennais took every-
body by surprise — clerical and laity. The young
clergy sympathized with him and at La Chenai'e
a group of enthusiastic disciples gather. There
FELIX DE LAMENNAIS 69
were Lacordaire, Montalembert, Maurice de
Guerin, the Abbe Gerbert, Charles St. Foi and
others. What a household it was! A lovely house
on the border of the fine forest of Coetguen, of
cheerful aspect, coiffed in mansards. Opposite the
house across the lawn a fine chapel; beyond a large
and beautiful garden. Inside the house there were
books and fine conversation; outside there were
sunshine, birds and tranquillity. It was in this en-
vironment that this group of enthusiastic young
men gathered about a man devoid of exterior
grace, small, plain, with the ascetic look which we
see in the face of Dante. But under his inspira-
tion what studies in Art, History, Philosophy and
Belles Lettres went on! Years after, Charles St.
Foi wrote of him : "He had the timidity of a child ;
if you looked at him he was disturbed, if you
praised him he was embarrassed, reduced to si-
lence. What must one do! Listen to him as a
disciple listens to a master."
Maurice de Guerin, in a letter dated 1833,
writes: "In the evening after supper we gathered
in the salon. He throws himself upon or rather
into an immense sofa — an old piece of furniture
in crimson ribbed velvet, which stands under the
portrait of his grandmother, in which one notes
some of the features of the grandson. It is the
hour for conversation. One entering the salon at
this hour will see there in the corner a head — little
more than the head, the rest of the body being ab-
70 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
sorbed by the sofa — eyes shining like rubies, voice
sometimes grave, sometimes ironical, and now and
then bursts of shrill laughter. It is our man — it
But Rome regarded him and his newspaper with
suspicion. The Pope had hitherto held him in
esteem and admiration — had even designated him
for the position of Cardinal. But a Sociologist
within the Church was a thing not to be consid-
ered. And Rome frowned upon the newspaper,
and its group of collaborators. The moral situa-
tion became embarrassing to Lamennais and he
decided to go to Rome and take council upon the
course to pursue.
His reverence for the Pope was perfect. "And
what if we are censured?" asks Montalembert en
route. "We cannot be censured," responded La-
mennais, so absolute was his faith in his cause and
in the Pope.
There are few journeys on record that, in the
present light, seem so pathetic as this of these
"three pilgrims for God and Liberty" as Lamen-
nais, Lacordaire and Montalembert called them-
selves. Zola in his "Rome" has taken his Pierre
Froment through paths and experiences that pre-
sent many parallels to those of Felix de Lamen-
nais. The resemblance is too striking to escape
attention. Zola might have found — possibly did
find — the model for the plot of his "Rome" in this
episode in the life of Lamennais.
FELIX DE LAMENNAIS 71
"Oh! the pitiless attitude of Rome toward this
great apologist for the Church!" exclaims a French
writer of our day.
Felix de Lamennais had seen in the Roman
Catholic Church the predestined emancipator of
nations. He had believed profoundly in his mis-
sion both social and religious. To-day he would
be welcomed by the great and good man at the
Vatican. Even after the death of Gregory XVI,
the new Pope Pius IX sought this straying sheep
and sent him a message. "Tell him I am waiting
to bestow my benediction upon him and to embrace
It was too late. Lamennais, disillusionized, has
broken with the Church and given himself to the
People. His "Book of the People" and "The Past
and Future of the People," written during the
years spent in the prison of St. Pelagie, where he
was held as a political prisoner, treat of social and
civil ethics, and might safely serve as handbooks
for discontented masses to-day. His book, "Words
of a Believer," published after his break with the
Church, produced great excitement in Paris.
Sainte Beuve tells us that "even in the printing of-
fice among the typesetters the enthusiasm was so in-
tense that the work came to a standstill." In fact
this little book, scarcely more than a brochure,
caused a tumult in public opinion, a chaos of ideas
and sentiments. It had its reading at Rome and
it was read by every blue-bloused workman in
-J2 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
Paris. A contemporary wrote: "A priest is stir-
ring up all Europe. What has he done? He has
changed — not God, but the manner of serving
Him. He has made of the Cross of Christ a stand-
ard of Liberty." Literary critics pronounced the
little book a work of art — a great poem.
The French Government called it a "dangerous
book." In this Jeremiah lamenting the fate of
nations it saw an enemy to be feared. In order to
show the real spirit and motive of this man,
spurned by Rome, scorned by France, persecuted
by the Government, let us read together the short
preface of this so-called "dangerous book," "The
Words of a Believer":
"To the people. This book has been written
chiefly for you. It is to you I offer it. May it, in
the midst of so many ills which are your inherit-
ance, of so many griefs which oppress you, revive
and console you. To you who are bearing the
burden of the day, I would that it might be to
your poor tired souls what the shade of a tree in a
corner of the field at midday is to him who has
toiled all the morning under the burning rays of
the sun. You are living in evil times, but these
times will pass. After the rigors of the winter
Providence brings a more gentle season, and the
little bird in its song blesses the kind hand which
has brought him warmth and plenty and his mate
in the warm nest. Hope on and love on. Hope
softens everything and Love makes everything
FELIX DE LAMENNAIS 73
easy. Be patient. Pray to God that he may lessen
your trials. Now it is Man who judges and who
punishes. Soon it will be He who will judge.
Happy he who shall behold this justice. I am
old. Listen to the words of an old man. The
earth is dry and melancholy but it will revive.
The breath of the wicked will not always pass over
it like a flame which consumes. Whatever hap-
pens Providence desires that it should serve for
your instruction in order that you shall know how
to be good and just when your hour shall come.
"When those who have abused power shall have
passed away like the debris in a storm, then you
will understand that good alone is enduring, and
you will fear to soil the air which the winds of
heavens have purified. Prepare your souls for this
hour, for it is not far distant. It approaches. Re-
form that in yourselves which needs tq be re-
formed. Exercise yourselves in all the virtues
and love one another as the Saviour of the human
race has loved you, even unto death."
Through all these years Lamennais was appre-
ciated by the few and calumniated by the many.
Intrigues sprang up on every side. Lamennais
was proud in his revolt. His soul was tormented,
but his heart was warm for mankind. He was in-
deed a Jeremiah lamenting over the fates of na-
tions, but he did something besides. Some one
has said of him: "He roared like a lion, but he
wept like a mother."
74 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
It is a relief to see him done with affairs
at Rome, and in 1848, representing the democracy
of Paris in the Assembly as his friend Beranger
had done, even though his utterances from the Ex-
treme Left land him in the prison of St. Pelagie.
Still more agreeable is it to note his last years,
even though they were years of extreme poverty.
His great love of music won him the friendship
of Liszt, Chopin and George Sand. Among his
friends were Chateaubriand, Lamartine, Arago
and Mazzini. His pages upon Gothic Art and
upon the Beautiful in Music prove him an ardent
lover of the arts. His analysis of the genius of
Beethoven has been pronounced a masterpiece.
George Sand gives her first impressions of Lamen-
nais whom Liszt presented to her thus: "He was
small, thin, poverty-stricken, and seemed to have
the merest breath of life in his body. But what a
head! His clear eyes sparkled — the narrow fore-
head marked with vertical lines — a smiling, mobile
mouth — altogether a face strongly marked for a
life of renunciation and contemplation." In the
character of Spiridion George Sand has delineated
the traits of Lamennais as she comprehended them.
Felix de Lamennais died in poverty, thinking
to the last of the people and their wrongs. At his
death the people mourned their loss. But they
were not permitted to follow him to his burial.
The Government forestalled any possible demon-
stration of affection on their part by surrounding
FELIX DE LAMENNAIS 75
the small procession of intimate friends with
squads of policemen. He was buried in the Pot-
ters Field of Pere Lachaise.
To-day France would gladly gather the ashes
of this son of Brittany and raise a monument above
them, but no one knows the place of his burial.
A street in the quarter of the Champs Elysees
bears his name; scholars, statesmen and sociologists
talk and write of him and the Church accepts, to
a marked degree, the doctrines for holding which
he was condemned. At a meeting of the Catholic
Club on the rue du Luxembourg in Paris several
years ago, I heard a distinguished abbe, in closing
a lecture on Felix de Lamennais, say: "In fact the
Church to-day needs just such a man as Felix de
Sitting under the oaks of La Chenai'e, the story
of his life is vividly recalled. And inside the
house we find the same arrangement of rooms as
described in the Journal of Maurice de Guerin.
A bust of Lamennais on the mantel in the salon at-
tests the sympathy of the occupant of the place.
Otherwise there is no trace of the great mind that
was once Master here. But we must seek him in
his "Essays," in his "Words of a Believer," in his
"Book for the People." His translation of Dante
and of the "Imitations," to which he added his own
"Reflections" are the only books that at any time
brought him an income.
GUINGAMP, PAIMPOL AND PIERRE LOTI
From Dinan we travel by rail to Guingamp.
One visits Guingamp not only because of its his-
torical interests, it having played an important role
in the Hundred Years war, but also for the sake
of its churches. And if possible plan to visit Guin-
gamp at the time of the annual Pardon of Notre-
Dame de Bon Secours, which occurs on the Satur-
day before the first Sunday in July. Each Par-
don has its special features. In that of Guingamp
the great procession takes place in the evening.
It forms and sets out from the church at nine
o'clock. The statue of the Virgin, one of the Black
Virgins of which we shall speak in another
place, was honoured by the Pope some years ago,
a crown of gold being brought from Rome by
a papal delegation. The Virgin adorned in this
crown and clothed in a robe of cloth of gold, is
borne in state, placed upon a platform, which is
carried on the shoulders of ten men dressed in
white. Every person in the procession — many
GUINGAMP, PAIMPOL AND PIERRE LOTI 77
thousands altogether — carries a lighted candle and
the effect of these moving myriads of lights is most
beautiful. Every pilgrim as he marches sings the
familiar Canticle of the Virgin of Guingamp.
A famous bit of old Breton music is the march
of the "Men of Guingamp," who in the fourteenth
century raised the siege held by the English and
restored Guingamp to its rightful possessor. It is
always the favourite march of the Bards all over
Brittany. We march to the banquets and we
march from the banquets always to the measure
of this old-time tune, which is also sung to a na-
tional hymn. "Oh! Breiz Izel." Certain musi-
cians have found in this march the theme em-
ployed by Wagner in his wedding March in Lo-
From Guingamp our travels bring us among
quite another type of Breton life and character.
At Paimpol, the country of Pierre Loti's "Pech-
eurs d'Islande," we shall encounter the people
whom we have already met in the pages of that
beautiful book. But this prose poem Paimpol,
smiling amid her rocks unnoticed by the traveller,
even now retains much of its tranquillity and
The journey from Guingamp to Paimpol is a
matter of several hours and is altogether agree-
able. How well we recall our first visit there. It
was in the deepening twilight of a Sunday even-
ing in July that we were deposited at the entrance
78 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
of the Hotel Michel, which faces the public
square. A peculiar fascination caused us to for-
get the dinner hour and sent us wandering about
the little town. We knew beforehand that Paim-
pol was unusually sad this year. There had been
many disasters in the Iceland waters and scores
of widows and orphans were sorrowing over their
losses. Silence and melancholy pervaded the
During a visit at Paimpol a few months before,
we had witnessed the ceremonial of the blessing
of the fishing boats at the annual departure, which
takes place at the end of winter. The boats,
decked with flags, lay in the harbour and the men
already on board awaited the benediction. An
altar was built upon the quay, on which the queer
little faience Virgin — Protector of sailors — was
enthroned. The priest, walking under a canopy,
bore the Holy Sacrament. Wives, mothers, sisters
and sweethearts followed in procession. The
priest, stopping before each boat, uttered the bene-
diction. Then we had seen the little squadron set
out, leaving Paimpol void of fathers, husbands,
brothers and lovers. As they sailed away they
sang in chorus the Hymn of Mary, Star of the
Sea, and the women watched tearfully each little
craft until it disappeared from the horizon. How
many processions of women have I watched as
they passed up and down the shore, singing in
mournful tones that time-honoured hymn of de-
GUINGAMP, PAIMPOL AND PIERRE LOTI 79
parture. It is a prayer to Mary: "Brillez dans le
del douce etoile d'or."
This year, as every year, the same ceremonial of
farewell. But August was at hand. News of dis-
asters had already been brought back by a
Government ship touching at Iceland. As we
wandered about the town we saw only women and
children. Their sabots clicked sadly along the
narrow streets. The door of the little church
stands open. We enter. The deepening twilight
turns to darkness inside. Here and there white
specks dot the blackness. The eye when grown
accustomed discovers in these the white coifs of
the widows of Paimpol. At this hour they gather
in the church to pray for the souls of their lost
ones. We slip quietly out, leaving the sad faces
under the white coifs at their mournful vespers.
One is reminded of Pierre Loti's story at every
turn. On the public square we pass the window
where poor little Gand on that May evening when
the smell of the hawthorne blossoms was in the
air, leaning out of the casement, listened to the sea
and thought of her lover. One can peep inside
the very room which furnished the setting for the
exquisite letter-writing scene of the third chap-
ter, in which Grandmother Yvonne and the poor
And mounted in a donkey cart we drive along
the road to Ploubalasnec, over which Gand walked
on that dreary November afternoon, bent on seeing
8o THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
the house and family of her lover, who with that
unaccountable Breton obstinacy mingled with ex-
treme shyness, wouldn't tell his love.
In the hamlet of Porz-Even we find the little
chapel where she paused to read the gruesome tab-
lets and noted the pathetic votive offerings. It is
all photographed on the pages of the book.
But a pleasant surprise awaits us at Porz-Even.
For we find Jean, the hero of the book, alive and
well, instead of having been drowned at sea as the
story has it. We see him stalking over the rocks
with Sylvestre's baby boy on his shoulder. Yes,
Sylvestre, who, after all, did not die on the ship
returning from the war, but is actually off on the
summer fishing voyage. Even dear old grand-
mother Yvonne we find still in the flesh and sound
in mind, her proud coif crowning her grey hair,
and not the least awry as in that last pathetic chap-
ter. We make acquaintance with all these good
folk — the veritable models of the story. Jean
shows us his house with its additional second story
— an uncommon bit of splendor for Porz-Even!
We see the two Breton armoire bedsteads in great
state, and he shows us many photographs of Pierre
Loti. They are great chums. Then he brings
good Breton cider — the wine of the Province in
which in the quaint faience bowls of the country
we all drink to the safe return of Sylvestre. All
this is cheerful, even gay. And the return to Paim-
pol, driving our absurd little donkey over the route
GUINGAMP, PAIMPOL AND PIERRE LOTI 8l
from Ploubalasnec, is made with the joyful sense
of having found something which we had thought
to be lost.
Each Breton town has its typical motif. That
of Paimpol is in a minor key. The melancholy,
long, flowing, black cloak with its capote, in which
the widow of Paimpol envelopes herself, accords
with the tristesse of the place. M. Anatole Le
Braz pictures Paimpol in three words: "La Mer,
l'amour, la mort."
To listen to the Gregorian plain chant in the
little church, to see the widows and orphans in the
cemetery praying at the make-believe tombs of the
drowned men — for each fisherman lost at sea has a
place in the burial ground ascribed to his memory
— all this is to see and know Paimpol and to catch
its motif. Only on a Sunday is this possible, as on
all other days the entire population is at work in
the fields or in their houses.
TREGUIER, ST. YVES AND ERNEST RENAN
From Paimpol we travel to Treguier, a matter
of several hours' journey.
The archaeologist finds in Brittany a historical
museum — Keltic monuments, Roman remains and
architecture of the Gothic and of the Renaissance
period. In this Department through which we
are now travelling — the C6tes-du-Nord — several
remarkable instances claim a visit. The ruins of
the temple of LanlefT, believed by some archaeolo-
gists to be Roman in its construction, still remains
a puzzle to the Savant. The exquisite old church
St. Runan, near Pluzunet, is a gem. And in an-
other parish near Pontrieux we find in the deserted
chapel Kermaria-an-Isquit of the thirteenth cen-
tury a curious mural painting representing a Danse
Macabre, in which Popes, Kings and Nobles join
in lugubrious procession. Much of this queer
frieze has been covered with whitewash, but one
sees enough to know that the work possesses con-
siderable artistic merit, especially in respect to its
TREGUIER, ST. YVES AND ERNEST RENAN 83
Treguier possesses a twofold interest to the
traveller, as being the birthplace of Ernest Renan
and of St. Ives, the greatest of the Breton Saints.
Treguier was an old town before Armorica took
the name of Brittany. In the fifth century Tud-
wall, the Patron of the Cathedral, fleeing from
Great Britain, built here a hermitage, which
served as refuge for his companions in exile. The
hermitage grew into a monastery, and a little town
grouped itself about its walls, increasing gradually
until it formed a radius of several miles. The
Bishop's Palace, an admirable Cathedral of the
thirteenth century, to-day accentuates the ecclesias-
tical atmosphere of the place. One of the towers
of the Cathedral is of the Roman style, there are
some remarkable tombs of the middle age, and the
stalls are artistically sculptured, portraying the
legend of St. Tudwall slaying the dragon that for-
merly infested the country about Treguier. Other
sculptures represent a legend of St. Yves — a legend
which we shall give later. The cloister is very in-
teresting and beautiful.
Brittany has had a nobility of its own, entirely
distinct from that which owes its titles to the Kings
of France. The Revolution made havoc with this
little nest of monks and nobles. The bishops fled
to England and the nobility were under a cloud.
The bishopric was suppressed; Treguier was, as
it were, decapitated. But later on the immense
monastic buildings served for the establishment of
84 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
an ecclesiastical college. Treguier resumed its
dignity. But neither commerce nor industries have
ever been a factor in its growth.
In a small house of a narrow street bearing the
misnomer Grande Rue, on January 27, 1823, Er-
nest Renan w r as born and it was in the environment
that we have described that the boy grew up. That
the gloomy atmosphere of the place had something
to do with the indestructible bias that pervaded
his life, his "Souvenirs" give us to believe. He
tells us how when visiting more commercial towns
he was always homesick — rhow he longed for the
belfry tower, the long and narrow nave, the clois-
ter and the fifteenth century tombs. Only when
restored to the company of knights and noble
dames sleeping tranquilly with their hounds at
their feet and torches in their hands and the stone
saints ranged in their niches along the inner walls,
did he recover himself. It is easy to imagine the
little boy wandering about, dreaming in the twi-
light, in the Cathedral. And when in later years
he had become great among the scholars of his
country and was the adored Professor of the Col-
lege of France, he always turned lovingly to these
childish days, to the Cathedral and to Brittany.
We seek the house where he was born. The
room opening on the street is now used as a bread
shop. But the small back room contains some of
the original furniture — the Breton bedstead and
the great armoire on the top of which Ernest's
ERNEST REN AX
After the painting by Henri Scheffer, 1860
TREGUIER, ST. YVES AND ERNEST RENAN 85
father used to hide his "Don Quixote" and "Gil
Bias." There is an immense stone chimney with
open fireplace. - In this room Ernest Renan was
born. We mount a narrow stairway leading to the
garret which served as workroom during his stu-
dent years at Treguier. From the two small win-
dows we look out upon a pleasing landscape. Be-
low is the tiny garden and the same rose bushes
that his mother cherished. The woman in charge
shows us photographs of Renan taken at various
periods of his life, tells us how he visited the little
house every year, how gracious and gentle he was,
and, first glancing prudently about, she whispers:
"tout le monde est si drole, Treguier ne comprend
pas ce grand homme." Later on the old Sacristan
shook his head portentously at our mention of the
name of Renan, declaring firmly that he would
never be allowed burial at Treguier. Two years
later, standing in the crowd that lined the streets
of Paris watching the procession bearing the body
of Ernest Renan to its burial, I recalled the words
of the Sacristan. But Treguier was not asked to
honour her son. The French Government be-
stowed upon his burial the highest public honours
in its power, and the niche at the Pantheon will
furnish the tomb which his own parish would have
refused him. Scholars know him best through his
works on "The Semitic Languages," "The Future
of Science," "The Origin of Language," "Essays
on Morals and Criticisms," and many others.
86 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
More know him through his "Life of Jesus" and
the group of philosophic dramas — "Caliban,"
"L'Eau de Jouvence," "Le Pretre de Nemi," and
others. But as for the man he reveals himself
chiefly through his "Souvenirs d'Enfance et de
Jeunesse," "Feuilles Detachees," "Correspondence
Intime," and other books written shortly before
Some of us doubtless recall the shabby little
room, Number Four, at the College of France,
where we listened to the lectures of the author of
the "Life of Jesus." A certain playful touch pe-
culiar to Renan when dealing with serious sub-
jects was due to his everyday familiarity with the
Oriental peoples and customs. When he men-
tioned the old prophets one felt that they might
have lived just around the corner — that one might
at any moment encounter Jeremiah, Ezekiel and
the rest at almost any turn in the Latin Quarter.
This intimate manner with these ancient worthies
who have inspired such awe in the usual mind was
not due to irreverence but to the peculiar tempera-
ment of the man. This peculiarity caused M.
Challamel-Lacour to say of Renan: "He thinks
like a man, he feels like a woman, he behaves like
In a prominent chapel in the Cathedral of Tre-
guier we note the tomb of St. Ives, brilliant with
fresh flowers and blazing with candles. No saint
in the Breton calendar receives to-day the devotion
TREGUIER, ST. YVES AND ERNEST RENAN 87
accorded to this Breton Saint of Lawyers. It re-
quired the imagination — or should I say? — the dis-
crimination of the Breton to make a saint of a law-
yer — the only instance in Christendom. The old
Latin student song is still sung in Treguier.
"Sanctus Yvo eratBrito,
Advocatus et non latro,
Res miranda populo."
The ungracious suggestion in the third line indi-
cates a lingering popular sentiment.
Yves Helori was born in the parish of Treguier
in the middle of the thirteenth century. He was
of a noble family living at the Manor of Ker-
martin, two miles from Treguier, was educated at
Rennes, at Orleans and at Paris in scholastic theol-
ogy and civil law. He became a judge at Rennes,
then at Treguier, afterward cure of the parish of
Lohannec. The widow and orphan had never a
more eloquent pastor nor the poor so generous a
benefactor. He fed the orphans of his parish,
lodging many of them in his own house; others he
apprenticed to master workmen whom he salaried
from his own purse. He served the most miser-
able beggars at his table, gave most of his clothing
to the poor, visited the sick, consoling and assist-
ing them. He administered the sacrament and
prepared for burial the bodies of the poor who
died in his house. After a life thus spent he died
88 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
on the thirteenth of May, 1303, at the age of fifty.
Soon miracles came to be wrought at his tomb.
These becoming more and more frequent, the
Bretons demanded the canonization of their com-
patriot. The Pope named a legate who listened
to* three hundred witnesses of the miracles per-
formed. As the decision of the Synod was greatly
delayed the clergy of Treguier boldly anticipated
the decree, celebrating in crowded churches the
Fete of St. Yves. When the canonization was fi-
nally pronounced at Rome in 1348, St. Yves had
been publicly honoured and invoked throughout
Brittany. The pilgrimages made to his tomb were
so numerous that those to Rome and Palestine
dwindled in numbers. This devotion — to a certain
extent — exists to-day. Widows and orphans from
all over Brittany go to Treguier to worship at the
?hrine containing the skull of St. Yves. Renan
tells us in his "Souvenirs" that after the death of
his father his mother took him to the tomb of St.
Yves in the Treguier Cathedral and there named
this Protector of the Orphans the guardian saint
of the little Ernest.
THE LEGEND AND PARDON OF ST. YVES
PAUL SEBILLOT, in his collections of legends of
Brittany, gives a popular legend of St. Yves. Ac-
cording to this St. Yves dies and appears at the
gate of Paradise^ St. Peter, in answer to his knock-
ing, calls out: "Who's there? And what do you
want?" St. Yves replies with impressive dignity:
"When one knocks at a door it is naturally to en-
ter." St. Peter grumbles: "Everybody can't come
in here as if it were a wine shop; what did you
do down there during your life?" "I was a law-
yer," replies St. Yves. "A lawyer!" says St. Peter,
"you have mistaken the door, go and knock at the
other place." And he prudently turns the key
twice instead of the usual once. St. Yves, discon-
certed, was standing outside when,*as luck had it,
there arrived a sweet little nun who had died that
day at Treguier, to whom he tells his unlucky ad-
venture. "It can't be possible," says the nun. "St.
Peter couldn't shut the door of Paradise to such
as you. Let us see." And she knocks softly at the
door. She is, of course, promptly received and
9 o THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
St. Yves with her. And the legend goes on to re-
late how he tried to get a seat among the clergy
but the benches were already crowded, the more
so as the profession was inclined to stoutness. He
was forced to go down to the seats reserved for
lawyers, which he finds quite empty. Meanwhile
the little nun has difficulty in finding a place among
her sisterhood, and upon a nod from St. Yves she
comes over and sits with her much-honoured friend
from Treguier. The legend shows that the two
became so talkative as to disturb the quiet of the
place somewhat, and the archangel charged with
police duty in Paradise, comes over to restore
quiet, even threatening to turn the lawyer out of
the place. But St. Yves reminds him that first, he
has possession, and second, he has definite property
rights, and he quotes from the Code. The arch-
angel goes off for a bailiff. Of course no such
person is to be found in Paradise, and St. Yves is
permitted to hold his place. This legend origi-
nated in Morbihan, a Department of Brittany al-
ways jealous of Treguier and the glory of her
saint, and also possessing intense hatred of the
bailiffs of the Government both of which senti-
ments we note in the legend.
We shall find that our Brittany is a Province of
Saints and each saint has his miraculous fountain.
When these are sought for healing of disease, coins
and other objects are thrown into the fountain.
That these were long ago thus frequented is proven
THE LEGEND AND PARDON OF ST. YVES 91
by the fact that in digging deep beneath them,
pieces of coin and amulets of ancient epochs have
been found. But in place of the Roman divinity
a Christian saint now presides over and gives the
name to the fountain. Each saint cures some spe-
cial disease. It is well understood that St. Pabu
cures rheumatism, St. Cadoc deafness, and St.
Kirion makes a specialty of boils — "father of
boils," a popular litany has it. For dropsy one
must seek the aid of St. Onene, St. Ivy must be in J
voked for colic, St. Urlou for gout and St. Tre-
meur is a specific for neuralgia. How any medical
doctor makes a living in Brittany with such dis-
tinguished competition is a cause for wonder. Nor
are animals without protecting saints. St. Eloi,
St. Herve and St. Gildas are committed in the
Breton liturgy to horses. Cows and horned cattle
share the spiritual advantages of various saints,
St. Herbot being prominent in the long list. At
their fetes troops of these excellent beasts march in
procession. St. Comely is, however, most to be
trusted as respects horned cattle, and the great fete
of this saint is held at Carnac on the fifteenth of
September. At fetes of horses bunches of hair
pulled from the manes and tails of the animals are
placed on the altar rail as offerings, while at the
shrines of St. Herbot, patron saint of the cow,
pats of butter are offered. This is the saint in-
voked by the Breton dairymaid if the butter is
slow in forming in the churn.
92 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
St. Yves has no fountain of miraculous water
whereby to afford assistance in cases of distress.
He descends to no such earthly shrine. The Law-
yer Saint pleads the cause of the widow and or-
phan and of others who suffer from injustice within,
the gates of that Paradise which at the start threat-
ened to exclude him from its courts.
Only in a single emergency is St. Yves invoked
through the medium of his statue. There is a
strange and lugubrious custom with the Breton,
gradually falling into disuse, called the "adjura-
tion of St. Yves." In the case of serious quarrel ;
if a Breton suffers from dishonesty of another; if a
boundary line has been tampered with and no proof
was available, he had only to invoke St. Yves,
whose thirst for justice after the six hundred years
since his death, is in no wise abated. The wronged
person made a pilgrimage to some statue of the
saint and, first, placing a few coins in the auriole
of the saint, demanded justice of him, sometimes
in rather stern language, sometimes in serious ca-
ress, going to the length of shaking the wooden
image by a shoulder. Many times these words
were uttered: "If the right is on his side condemn
us; if on our side condemn him; cause him to die
within a year." Then the circuit of the chapel is
made three times and he kneels before the entrance
and makes a last supplication and it is finished.
The guilty person dies within the year and justice
is accomplished !
PHOTO BY FRANCES N. GOSTLING
THE CHAPEL OF SAIXT GILDAS NEAR PORT BLANC
The patron saint of horses
THE LEGEND AND PARDON OF ST. YVES 93
Thus the Lawyer Saint holds high authority
with the Breton, with whom the wall which sepa-
rates the visible from the invisible is very slight.
It has been said in fact that the Breton is gener-
ally in a state of mind in which an explanation of
natural events is an interpretation of the miracu-
Of course many legends have gathered about
the name of the Lawyer Saint. M. Anatole Le
Braz, in his book "Au Pays des Pardons," has
given the preceeding and the two following leg-
ends, parts of which I give in his own words. For
instance: his boundless hospitality at the manor
house, Kermartin, is illustrated in the following:
"A troup of jugglers arrived in the middle of the
night. St. Yves, after a busy day devoted to pro-
fessional duties, was in the midst of his best sleep.
But, awakened by the knocking, he rose, welcomed
and fed the guests, serving them with his own
hands. After a generous feast of pork, beef and
bread had been enjoyed the chief of the Nomad
tribe felt called upon to express his gratitude and
to explain the several callings of the members of
his family; speaking of himself as not only a jug-
gler but a rhymer of war songs and the Lives of
the Saints; then introducing his wife, player on
the viol and fortune-teller, and with a knowledge
of herbs and a talent for curing diseases by prayer;
followed by mention of his two sons, one gifted in
playing the bagpipes, the other the flute. The jug-
94 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
gler was proceeding to describe the accomplish-
ments of a group of young daughters when St.
Yves begged him to spare himself the pains of
making further introductions, assuring them that
his house was theirs for so long a time as it should
please them to remain. Eleven years after, at the
time of the death of St. Yves, they were still his
This legend is sculptured on the pulpit of the
Cathedral of Treguier.
The third legend illustrates the hospitality of
the Lawyer Saint who never sent a beggar from
his door unsatisfied. The legend has it that on one
especially stormy night, the cook of the manor
house, believing that no one could possibly turn up
to ask for food, prepared a limited supply of soup.
Contrary to her expectations, crowds of hungry
people poured into the old kitchen. The cook
was frightened. But St. Yves calmed her fears,
and then occurred what in the records of the Life
of St. Yves is named: "The Miracle of the Soup,"
for as fast as the cook ladled out the contents of
the kettle, the quantity was made good by miracu-
lous means. Also the loaves of bread were re-
plenished in the same mysterious manner. The
ceremony of the "Giving of the Soup," which
forms a part of the fete of St. Yves, celebrates this
We must not leave Treguier without mention of
the great fete devoted to St. Yves. Not only is he
THE LEGEND AND PARDON OF ST. YVES 95
the greatest saint in the Breton calendar, but his
fame extended to Rome, where in the fourteenth
century a church was built, dedicated to him, and
altars in his honour were consecrated in various
cathedrals in France. Rubens painted a picture
of the illustrious Breton and a fresco in Italy shows
our Lawyer Saint in the act of giving gratuitous
advice to a clientele in rags. His fete occurs on
the nineteenth day of May, but one should make
a point of arriving at Treguier on the eighteenth
in order to make the pilgrimage to Kermartin to
witness the ceremony of the "Giving of the Soup."
We arrive at the manor house, having become
attached to a procession of halt, blind and crippled
beggars, all making their way to the famous
kitchen of the hospitable advocate who was once
The scene is curious and impressive. In the
large fireplace, over blazing fagots, several im-
mense kettles are suspended. All about the large
kitchen the mendicants are sitting, some on the
long benches which line the walls, some on low
seats, placed here and there. At a large table a
woman gives to each newly-arrived a porringer
and spoon. Into this each breaks bread, of which
we note great piles at one end of the table, then
bringing the porringer to the fireplace, the woman
in charge of the kettles ladles the soup into the
porringer of each applicant, who returns to his seat.
Each one makes the sign of the cross before com-
96 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
mencing his repast, and only the soft clicking of
the wooden spoons against the faience porringers
is audible. This coming in of the hungry and the
departure of the satisfied are accomplished silently
and the soup-giving continues until midnight, when
the little church close by fills with the motley
crowd, who watch and pray until daybreak, when
the mass is said, and for them the "Pardon of St.
Yves" is ended, save that during the great proces-
sion of the following day — the real fete day — these
beggars lined the route by which the procession
passed, their plaintive songs filling the air and re-
sembling in the distance the droning of bees. Dur-
ing the procession they receive alms from the
moving mass. Nowhere as at the fete of St. Yves
are the beggars so numerous. For was not St.
Yves the protector of the poor? M. Anatole Le
Braz has properly named the fete of St. Yves:
"The Pardon of the Poor."
I recall a perfect nineteenth of May when we
made an important pilgrimage to the shrine of St.
Yves. It was the six hundredth anniversary of the
death of the Lawyer Saint. At eight o'clock in the
morning all the bells of Treguier were pealing,
every house was decorated, as were the streets,
with banners, flowers and streamers — the colour of
St. Yves (yellow) prevailing. From every direc-
tion neighbouring parishioners arriving. Each
procession advanced, singing the canticle of St.
Yves set to the music of an ancient Breton Battle
THE LEGEND AND PARDON OF ST. YVES 97
Hymn. The clergy of Treguier went to meet each
procession and the curious salutation of the ban-
ners took place, after which all passed to the Ca-
thedral, where, after short devotions at the tomb
of the saint, brilliant with lighted candles and
gorgeous with flowers, each parish was in turn as-
signed its place in the great procession being
massed on the public square. Over twenty parishes
poured into Treguier that day and many thou-
sands of pilgrims besides from all over Brittany.
The great procession always makes the pilgrim-
age to Kermartin, two miles from Treguier, where
are the tomb and the manor house of the Saint.
The latter is still standing and some of the furni-
ture remains. The tomb is in the little church-
yard of Minihy close by. In the church one sees
inscribed on the walls the last will and testament
of Yves Helotry; in the sacristry are treasured the
remains of his breviary. Although the body of
St. Yves reposes at Minihy, his skull is enshrined
in a gold casket in the tomb in the Cathedral at
Treguier. This is always borne with great pomp
in the procession on the day of the fete. But the
actual tomb at Minihy is a small arcade under
which the faithful pass, kneeling, in fact creep-
ing, so low is the stone placed. Unless one per-
forms this little ceremony one may not lay claim
to being truly "bretonnate."
By nine o'clock the great procession begins to
move from Treguier, the bells incessantly ringing.
98 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
military bands playing, choristers and people sing-
ing, and always and only the one Canticle — the
Canticle of St. Yves — of which the refrain is, in
the Breton language:
N'hen es ket en Breiz, n'hen es ket unan,
N'hen es ket eur Zant evel Sant Erwan.
Which put into French :
77 n'y a pas en Bretagne, il n'y a pas un
II n'y a pas un Saint comme St. Yves.
The priest of each parish in turn sings a stanza,
then choristers and choirs, bands and people take
up the refrain.
The procession, two miles long, with its hun-
dreds of gay banners, the rich vestments of the
clergy, the scarlet and white of the choristers, the
gay fete costumes of the peasants, all flashing in
the sunshine under the bluest of skies, as it goes
winding through the fields, gives, in its ensemble,
the impression of a gorgeous silken scarf tossed
across the green meadows in endless length of pris-
matic colour. And always and always that re-
frain, sung in march rhythm, each pilgrim keep-
ing time in his step and with his staff repeats the
"N'hen es ket en Breiz. N'hen es ket unan"
THE LEGEND AND PARDON OF ST. YVES 99
Arrived at Minihy mass is said in the open air
and the procession passing under the arcade of
the tomb returns to Treguier, disperses for the
midday repast, and the afternoon is passed among
the booths erected in the public square and in
sports of various kinds.
Such is the Pardon of St. Yves, a Saint in all
ways worthy of the great Profession of which he is
MORLAIX, BARDS AND POETS
Our next stopping-place is Morlaix, where we
find some interesting mediaeval houses. That of
Anne of Brittany, rich in carved staircases and
superbly decorated throughout, is much visited by
travellers. Albert the Monk of Morliax here re-
corded the "Lives of the Saints of Brittany."
The public square bearing the name of fimile
Souvestre, attracts one, and we note its statue — a
souvenir of one of the best-known writers of Breton
birth. Morlaix is to-day proud of the distinction
of being the birthplace of Emile Souvestre, al-
though the author of "Le Philosophe Sous Les
Toits" was not appreciated by its citizens in his
day. But the book is Parisian, and to a lover of
Brittany his half dozen books : "Les Derniers Bret-
ons," "Le Foyer Breton," "Souvenirs d'un Bas-
Breton," etc., are more important.
From Morlaix we take train for St. Pol-de-Leon
in Finistere. We are nearing the land of the Par-
don, of the pilgrimage, nursery of folk songs, do-
MORLAIX, BARDS AND POETS 101
main of the Legend. We hail the constant click of
the sabot, the droning song of the beggar and the
sound of the Keltic language, for we must bear in
mind that the Breton is not French, he is pure Kelt
and speaks a Keltic language. Hence the ancient
bards long held a kind of authority over the peo-
ple, and the superstitions and legends of Lower
Brittany to-day are due to the survival of this
racial talent for the mysterious and supernatural.
Several Breton men of letters have searched out
these old songs, some of them only fragments, and
have translated them from the Keltic tongue into
Our introduction to Finistere through the town
of St. Pol-de-Leon gives us a good impression of
Lower Brittany. The inhabitants of this town
have been from the earliest time less barbaric than
in other parts of Finistere. They are also the
most religious of the Province. Nothing equals
the respect of the Leonaise for the dead. He
kneels at the wooden cross that designates a tomb
without even reading the name of the person buried
there. When there is no more room in the ceme-
tery the Leonaise, faithful to the training of his
ancestors, collects the sacred bones and places
them in beautiful ossuaries, some of them master-
pieces of naive and patient art. In the country of
Leon we find the richest Calvaries in Brittany, and
many sculptured pulpits, altars, baptismal fonts
102 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
The Leonais is brave, collected, imposing. His
garments are as severe as his face. He holds to the
ample black vestment, something like the clerical
mantle, and the low, wide-brimmed hat. The
Leonais may be named the Quaker of Brittany.
It is a splendid race of men with regular features
and fine eyes full of expression. It is not strange
that there should be much in the temperament of
the Leonais which is sombre. Even in the woo-
ing of lovers there is generally great seriousness.
The lugubrious insensibilities of a maid of St.
Pol-de-Leon is set forth in a very queer and ancient
song of the tenth century, preserved by £mile
Souvestre, in which, to each entreaty of the youth
for a return of affection, she bids him instead of
seeking happiness, to repair to the ossuary and
view the skeletons which she describes in a realistic
manner, worthy of Zola or Huysmans. The
youth's further entreaties inspire the maid to pre-
dict a most unpleasant dance which her lover will
be likely to perform in the next life — the demon,
with red-hot forks playing maliciously with his
bare feet. But the lover persists (one wonders
why), whereupon the dispiriting maiden begins
to describe a life in a convent to which she intends
to retire, and the poem ends thus: "Oh, my mis-
tress, how much time I have passed with you and
to no profit if what you say be true." To which
she replies: "Young man, you are beautiful and
fat" (in the eyes of the Breton peasants corpulency
A STREET IN MORLAIX
The home of the Franciscan Monk, Albert of Morlaix
who first collected the Legends of Brittany
MORLAIX, BARDS AND POETS 103
is a point of beauty, as indicating leisure and
wealth). "You are beautiful and fat, and I will
reward you for the time you have lost by praying
for you morning and evening that you may enter
Paradise " "Adieu, then, O Maiden, alas! I
now know it is wrong to laugh when one is young,
for life is sad. It is wrong to find the milk of the
nurse sweet, for life is bitter."
M. Anatole Le Braz has written a thrilling
novel: "Le Gardien du Feu," in which a Leon-
ais marries a girl from Treguier. This novel
portrays a tragic problem.
M. Anatole Le Braz portrays this part of Brit-
tany admirably in his book "La Terre du Passe"
and in "The Land of Pardons" and several ro-
mances translated by Frances Gostling.
Many famous sons of France have belonged to
Brittany, and have written of that fascinating
country. Among them Brizeux, Charles Le Gof-
fic, Villemarque, Emile Souvestre, Luzel, Tiezce-
lin (endless volumes of poetry — for the Bretons
are all poets) . There is a splendid history of Brit-
tany by de la Borderie, countless books and bro-
chures on matters archaeological. I have had the
pleasure of reading several hundred books that
have to do with my subject in French alone, but I
mention here only such as are most useful to the
general traveller in Brittany. If but four books
could be chosen from the many, let them be : A. Le
Braz's "Land of Pardons," Pierre Loti's "Pecheur
104 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
d'Islande," Brizeux's poem "Marie," Ernest Ren-
art's "Souvenirs d'Enfance et de Jeunesse."
To-day yet another school of singers has come to
take possession, quite modern. Chief of the pres-
ent bards (for poets are still called bards in Lower
Brittany) are Theodore Botrel and Francois Jaf-
frenou. The former, born in Upper Brittany,
composes his songs and sings them in French.
Jaffrenou — a native of the Mountains of Arez in
Lower Brittany — writes only in the Breton and
sings his songs in the same language, and with the
vigor which suggests the oaks and granite of his
country, while Botrel * captivates his audiences
by a contrasting, graceful touch that is truly
French. It would be difficult to say which of
these two Breton bards is more enjoyable. Both
please their public.
But there remained until a few years ago in
Brittany one of the old popular singers — a link
between past and present bardism, and it is a pleas-
ure to note that the joyous young bards did not
scorn this relic of the past, on the contrary — old
Marc'harit Phulup was held in profound respect
by them and indeed by all Brittany.
Of her I shall have more to say later on.
* During the war Botrel went from hospital to hospital singing
to the wounded French soldiers.
marc'harit phulup and job la poulaine
In THE September of 1900, in the old town of
Guingamp during the sessions of the Congress of
the Union Regionaliste Breton, composed of
Breton men of letters, every evening was devoted
to the "cabaret breton," cider flowed freely; the
poets recited their verses; the bards sang their
songs; the audience joined in the refrains. The
old and popular rondo, "Anne of Brittany and Her
Wooden Shoes," once set going, was sure to bring
the audience to a high pitch of enthusiasm. But
not to the highest. For one evening, in the midst
of the programme, a woman about sixty years of
age, in sabots well lined with straw, no stockings,
a dark blue cotton gown and apron of the same ma-
terial, a small shoulder shawl and the white coif
of the peasant of Pluzunet, came upon the plat-
form. The entire audience rose and greeted her
— two, three — round after round of cheering. The
woman stood smiling at her audience. Then she
sang. It was Marc'harit Phulup, known through-
106 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
out Brittany as "old Marc'harit." I had met her
name in the preface of Luzel's volumes of "Popu-
lar Tales" where this greatest of the Breton folk-
lorists writes: "Marc'harit Phulup has given me
the whole treasure of popular literature known be-
tween the bourg of Pluzunet, the Menezbre, Guin-
gamp, Pourtrieux, Treguier and Lannion. En-
dowed with a mediocre intelligence, she possesses
an excellent memory, loves passionately the old
songs and the fairy tales which she is not far from
believing to be true, and she recites these simply
and with great respect for the traditions. Spinner
by profession, pilgrim by procuration, she is al-
most constantly on the routes leading to some sa-
cred fountain or chapel of the C6tes-du-Nord,
Finistere or Morbihan to implore the Saint whose
specialty it is to cure the malady of the person
sending her, or of his horse, or cow, or pig, and
she brings back a bottle filled with water from the
miraculous fountain bearing the name of the saint
invoked. Wherever she passes she inquires about
the existing traditions of the locality, listens, com-
mits to memory and two or three times a year I
give her a rendezvous at Plouaret and share the
additions with which she has enriched her treas-
ury. It is truly astonishing, all that she has recited
to me, and I owe her great obligations."
I said: "She stood smiling down at her audi-
ence." Then she sang — not the songs of to-day, but
those taught her by her mother, who in turn had
MARC'HARIT PHULUP AND LA POULAINE 107
learned them from her mother — a family of spin-
ners. In Brittany it has often been to the rhythm
of the wheel that the popular songs have been
Marc'harit Phulup was a beggar — but not from
choice, for the paralysis of an arm made her pro-
fession of spinner impossible. However, in Brit-
tany, to be a beggar is considered no disgrace, and
Marc'harit's faith in the Saints being boundless,
her intercession at their shrines was held to be very
efficacious, and she was in great demand as a pil-
grim. For making a pilgrimage at a distance of
thirty miles she was paid eight sous!
I am proud to have possessed the affectionate
friendship of this last of the old popular singers.
We made many journeys together, she being my
guest. Her sole impedimenta in travelling con-
sisted of a list of her songs, 168 altogether, — of
which she was justly proud, a list made for her by
the great Luzel. Just how she managed her daily
toilette was always a mystery to me. At one mo-
ment, impelled by the apparent necessities of the
case, I ventured to present my fellow traveller with
a cake of soap, rose-tinted and highly perfumed.
I found a week later that shetreasured the gift as
a precious souvenir of "Bretonez-Tramor" (the
name I bear among my Bretons, meaning: "a
Breton lady from over the sea"). Some of the
Breton men of letters, realizing the value of
Marc'harit's songs, have had the most important
108 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
phonographed, and placed among the archives of
the University of Rennes.
How vividly I recall the many hours which
Marc'harit and I passed together, as we sat by the
roadside, watching processions given for St. Yves
and other saints. It was on one of these occasions
that she taught me that little song, "Ann hini goz,"
the most ancient of the Breton folk songs. It has
been named the "ranz des vaches" of the Breton,
for he weeps when absent from his country if he
hears it sung. Every Breton has been rocked to
sleep to its rhythm. The five little notes which
compose the melody of "Ann hini goz" stand for
mother — home — Brittany.
Great singers may be younger, fairer, richer,
but give me my poor, dear old Marc'harit, and as
I hum this little tune there comes to me the souve-
nir of an old face, under a peasant's coif — of a
form worn by age and poverty, in the humble garb
of a beggar. Not the glint of a white satin slipper
and silken hose in the midst of dainty frou-frou,
but a pair of wooden shoes thrust boldly out on the
green grass, and no stockings. Not a pair of white
gloves, but two poor old hands knotted by rheuma-
tism, and rough from working in the fields, and I
recall her constrained, resonant voice, and the "Ann
Several years ago she passed on at the age of
seventy- three. Doubtless she promptly sought and
found her favorite Saint in some Amen corner of
MARCHARIT PHULUP AND LA POULAINE 109
that Paradise which was at first so inhospitable to
In the month of September, 191 1, nearly three
years after the death of my friend, which occurred
in 1909, there gathered in the little hamlet of
Pluzunet a distinguished company of Bretons —
poets — singers, — professors— folk-lorists — romanc-
ers — philologists — archaeologists. Also a crowd of
peasants from the country about Pluzunet, come to
witness the inauguration of a tomb in the little
cemetery of the village. Marc'harit had been
buried in the pauper's corner. But certain friends
had felt that this last of the singers of folk-songs —
the link between the ancient Brittany and that of
to-day — deserved a more honourable burial. A
lot was bought in perpetuity, and on this a beauti-
ful tomb of the granite of Kersanton had been
placed. On the tomb were engraven — Marc'harit
Phulup, with date of birth and death. And for an
epitaph these words from an almost forgotten
Breton poet: "Lud-Jan": "J e n'ai fait qu'une chose
ici-bas — J'ai chante." Only, as Marc'harit did not
know French, nor did her fellow townsfolk, these
words were put into Breton, and so engraven on
the stone. Garlands of heather — the pan-Keltic
flower — encircled the base of the tomb. High
mass was said in the parish church at nine o'clock
— then the company of Breton men of letters gath-
ered at one side of the tomb — Le Goflic, Le Braz,
Jaffrenou, Botrel, Durocher, Ernault and many
no THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
others — each gifted in his especial way. Throngs
of peasants filled the cemetery on the opposite side.
Each of the men of letters, in turn, stepped forward
with his offering — in verse or prose — no such gath-
ering of the scholars of Brittany had ever occurred
as that which had assembled to do honor to a
beggar — a mere singer of songs. For an hour the
literary programme went on, and then all sat down
at table in the modest inn of Pluzunet — twenty-
two altogether, and there for four hours the sym-
posium continued — songs — remembrances of old
Marc'harit — speeches — recitations. That was a
day for Pluzunet — the parish folk who had seen
old Marc'harit going and coming, in their midst
all these years, were amazed at all these festivities.
For the rest of us — it was a recognition of the value
of a unique personage.
There are many ambulant singers of less im-
portance in Brittany — of more modern traditions.
These are sure to be present at fetes, weddings and
pilgrimages. They are welcome guests at every
Another precious experience among many inti-
mate happenings — has been my friendship for an-
other popular old singer in Brittany, less important
than Marc'harit. This is Job la Poulaine, of Plou-
manack (Cotes du Nord). We are fast friends.
She lives in a sort of grotto, twelve feet square,
formed by the relative position of several immense
boulders — tossed one upon another. The people
MARC'HARIT PHULUP AND LA POULAINE in
tell you that Job's ancestors were fairies (I like to
believe what the Breton peasants tell me — their
facts are sure to be picturesque and unique).
They hold her in great respect. She is the only
person I have met during my long life who owns
to being absolutely happy — whose every wish is
gratified. The drunkard-husband whom she sup-
ports by working in the fields might present to
some minds an obstacle to perfect bliss. That
such is not the case suggests some potent charm at
Job's command, that doubtless only fairy folk un-
derstand. She is sixty years old. Her clear pink
and white complexion, and large, blue, happy eyes
are beautiful to see. Job la Poulaine finds her
recreation in song. During my visits at her grotto,
I have listened to her entire repertory, which in-
cludes both sacred and secular music — the former
being her preference. I have been treated — espe-
cially if the day be a Sunday — to an entire mass —
she taking the role of priest, choir and people in
turn — in Gregorian plain-chant and in resonant
Latin. Her Latin flows unctuously, although she
does not know the language. Many a delightful
hour have I passed in Job's grotto — the head of the
family being invariably at the wine shop a mile
away. Job's goat and pair of hens — together with
myself, forming the audience at these musical
A BRETON WEDDING
In BRITTANY when we meet a young man and
maid walking along the country road with their
little fingers interlocked, we know that a wedding
will soon follow. The locked fingers furnish the
announcement of the betrothal of the pair. How
many such couples have I encountered — all smiles
and blushes — proclaiming the announcement "au
petit doight" as it is called.
In Lower Brittany the wedding involves much
of curious custom and naive sentiment. The wed-
ding occurs soon after the betrothal. But for many
years the wedding chest has, by slow instalments,
been made ready by the mother of the bride.
Often the coffer has been carved, on winter even-
ings, through many years by some relative of the
family. These coffers and the lit clos (the armoire
bedstead) and sometimes a massive armoire con-
stitute the lares et penates of thrifty Breton fami-
lies. As the time fixed for the wedding ap-
proaches, there is a commotion in the family, the
A BRETON WEDDING 113
excitement of which spreads through the parish.
The wedding gown is made — the linen, stored for
many years, is whitened in the fields, the carved
bedstead, armoire and coffers are waxed and pol-
ished, all the brass and copper utensils are made
to shine like gold. Then on a Saturday evening
comes the betrothal supper to the intimate friends.
The next day at high mass the bans are published,
after which the invitations to the wedding are
given. On the morning of the wedding crowds of
friends gather to join the procession to the church,
which the bridegroom leads with the chosen best
man; after the religious ceremony the procession
passes to the house of the bride, the binions play-
ing vociferously. The house (more often than
otherwise consisting of one room) has been hung
with white linen sheets with wreaths and bouquets
attached to their surface. Tables are spread inside
and outside the house. The feast consists of every-
thing within the means of the family to provide.
Be sure that cider, the national beverage, flows
freely. Eating, drinking, songs sung by the am-
bulant singers, and dancing fill the afternoon and
night hours. (During the repast the binious go
on playing, and a dance now and then, by way of
entree between courses, is in order.) Numerous
beggars are sure to be present, and the poorest of
these dances with the bride, as this is sure to bring
good luck to the newly-married. The ceremony
of the soupe-au-lah. difficult to describe here, is
ii4 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
still a custom in the mountains. In certain parts
of Finistere the festivities last three days. The
final event is the ceremony of carrying the bride's
armoire to the house of her new husband. We may
be sure this armoire is shining like a mirror and
its brasses like gold, and bouquets adorn the four
corners. Placed upon a wagon drawn by horses
decorated with ribbons and flowers, it is finally
placed in the corner prepared, in the midst of
At Plougastel all the marriages take place on
two days of the year, one of these being the twelfth
day — always at nine in the morning. Before day-
break the town is filled with carts and carriages
bringing kinsfolk and friends, and the streets
swarm with men and women in their fete costumes
— and the costumes of Plougastel are of more vivid
colors than elsewhere in Brittany. All the couples
are ranged at the altar rail, the bridegroomsbeing
led up by their best men, and the brides by their
fathers. A tall, lighted candle is placed before
each couple. After the joining of these many pairs
of hands and the benediction, the anthem is sung
and mass follows. Bride and groom do not leave
the church together, but are sure to find each other
shortly after — at least I have never known any of
them to get lost!
I am going to speak in some detail of the most
recent and also the most important wedding that
I have attended in Brittany.
A BRETON WEDDING 115
One day when I was attending one of the Con-
gresses of the Breton bards — in Carnac in Lower
Brittany, a priest of a little parish in the northern
part of Morbihan came to invite me to his sister's
wedding. He also gave me the privilege of bring-
ing with me any friend whom I would like to in-
vite, adding naively that there would be abundant
entertainment, as there were to be slain three
beeves and seven calves in provision for the feast.
Five hundred invitations had been given, and it
was to be a three-days' affair. Rendezvous was
made at Vannes — the capital of Morbihan —
twelve miles from the place of the wedding — on
the afternoon preceding the event.
It was already nine o'clock the next morning
when we arrived at the place designated. The
priest installed us at a Convent opposite the house
of the bride, and shortly after brought his sister to
greet us. She was already dressed for the cere-
mony, save for the orange flowers — a Parisian in-
novation seldom seen in Brtitany. She wore the
usual peasant gown of black — but heavily banded
in velvet and embroidery — an apron of gorgeous
stuff, crimson satin with large mantle of heavy vel-
vet thrown over it — and the usual coif of her par-
ish. She was sweet and tranquil and offered both
cheeks to be kissed all around — then returned home
for the final touch — a small wreath of orange blos-
soms surmounting the top of the coif, and lastly
white gloves — another Parisian innovation. At
u6 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
ten o'clock the bells began pealing and the proces-
sion marched to the church — the bride and groom
leading. The wedding ceremony was, as always,
in Breton. The wedding feast and dancing were
to take place in a field near by. Thither the pro-
cession moved from the church, passing along a
beautiful shady lane. At the wide-open gate of
the field a halt was made, and immediately the
chief cook and master of ceremonies advanced with
a dish on which was a huge piece of beef — smoking
hot from the cauldron. This was offered to the
bridegroom who, taking from his pocket his knife
(as all Breton peasants do), cut a morsel and of-
fered it to the bride, who ate it, he cutting an-
other for himself. Next came another man with
a large loaf of bread. The bridegroom cut a bit
from the loaf and served the bride and himself in
the same manner. Lastly came dancing up a pair
of handsome young Bretons, gaily decorated with
flowers and ribbons, bearing between them a large
two-handled vase or jug. We note the fine old
Roman shape of the jug and recall that Caesar con-
quered Gaul and made headquarters in Morbihan
where many of the Roman forms of pottery linger.
The two wine-bearers — (only the wine is plain
Breton cider) as they advance in dancing, rhyth-
mic step, sing an ancient Breton drinking song.
The especial duty of the wine-bearer is supposed
to be to "cheer the bride." They approach the
young couple, always in this dancing fashion, and
A BRETON WEDDING
each offers a glass of cider to the pair. Afterward
cider was offered to us, as we were placed next to
the bride. Then the procession moved through the
gate and into the field. Seven cauldrons — each in
charge of a cook — the chef in charge of the whole
— were steaming at one end of the field, and I re-
called the beeves to be slain in the invitation. Two
long tables — placed twelve feet apart, extended to
the farther end, and at the upper end connecting
the two — a table covered with damask and deco-
rated with bouquets, was arranged for the bridal
company. Benches ranged along both sides of the
tables furnished seats for the company. The first
course consisted of the soup of the pot-au-feu, the
second, beef and vegetables. For the third we
were served personally by the bride's mother, who
displayed special pride in the ragout, which she
informed us had been prepared in her own kitchen
under her personal supervision. Mountains of
bread placed at intervals on the tables completed
the menu. But the wine-bearers were ever active,
up and down — back and forth in the space between
the two long tables they danced and sang and
served — I begged from one of them a translation
of one of the drinking songs — as it was sung in the
Breton language. It was Horatian in sentiment,
with a touch of Breton lugubriousness: "Let us
drink and be merry to-day, for to-morrow we shall
die and our bodies be food for worms " Just
how this could "cheer the bride" he did not at-
u8 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
tempt to explain. No dessert was offered at table,
but women with baskets of cake and other sweets,
which could be bought if desired, made their ap-
pearance in the field after the repast.
At the close of the feast the bride rose, turned
her back to the table, the others following her
movements — and then followed a most impressive
incident — an aged woman, all her life a servant
of the family, knelt on the ground at the feet of
the bride and uttered a long prayer. It was a
prayer for the dead — those of the family — whose
presence at this marriage fete she invoked. For
the Breton is never far removed from his lost ones,
and each family fete and event is shared by them.
As the prayer ended the sound of the binions
was heard, and in the centre of the field two play-
ers of bagpipes were stationed. The bride and
groom with bridesmaid and best man begin the
dance — the gavotte being the favourite dance at
weddings. Gradually the circle grows larger and
presently the entire field is in movement — mean-
while the wine-bearers are always serving — the
"cheering of the bride" seems to succeed in spite
of the mortuary suggestions of the song. For
when she leaves the dancing at five o'clock to join
us at her mother's house for a farewell glass of
wine, she seems radiant, and, although she has been
dancing for five hours, she is unflushed by the ef-
fort. At the mother's house we all drink to the
health of the newly married, and they to ours —
A BRETON WEDDING 119
the bride disappears for five minutes and returns
resplendent in another apron — this time of pale
blue brocade; after all, why possess the trousseau
of two aprons if the invited guests be unaware of
the fact! And so we depart — another banquet,
precisely like the first, is to be served and the danc-
ing will go on until midnight; on the second day
the programme will be like that of the first, and
on the third day, given up to the poor, the final
ceremony of carrying the bride's wardrobe to her
husband's house will close the wedding fete.
The invocation of the dead at the wedding feast
illustrates one of the strongest traits of Breton
character — the cult of the dead — voila la Bre-
On All Souls Eve, in Breton homes, a bright fire
is kept blazing on the hearth when the family re-
tires for the night — a table covered with a white
cloth ("article de luxe chez les Bretons") is set
forth with cider and crips (a kind of wheat cake),
all ready in case some family ghost chance to visit
the familiar place, hungry! For on that night it
is prudent to avoid going outside, as the dead are
walking hither and thither on the highways, and
like not to be interfered with, so the Breton pru-
dently retires early — taking no chances of harm
from any stray malignant ghost — but hospitably
providing for the entertainment of his own family
wraiths. If, however, a Breton is forced to go
abroad on that night any implement of labor car-
[20 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
ried on his person serves as a protection — even a
thimble or a needle suffices.
The Veillee with the Bretons is a becoming and
dignified function — in other Keltic countries,
notably in Ireland, the best-intentioned Wake has
been known to come to an unworthy end. But with
the Bretons the Veillee has retained its discreet and
tender element I have shared several such in
Brittany. Near relatives and friends gather at
nightfall and sit through the night — their dead is
in their midst — they talk of the departed — recall
this or that deed or quality — recite souvenirs — now
and then some one kneels and prays in silence.
Sometimes certain songs are sung — all is tender,
affectionate and sympathetic. At midnight coffee
(never anything stronger) is served with simple
refreshments, and the watch continues until dawn
— and thus on each night until the burial takes
BRETON COSTUMES, LANDERNEU, LA GARDE JOYEUSE
In Lower Brittany the costumes of the people
are more interesting and unique. The coif worn
by the women is a strong feature of the costume,
each canton having its own special style, and any
Breton woman knows the home of any other from
the fashion of her headdress. How many de-
lightful talks do we recall, sitting on a bench in
some public square in Paris, with some Breton
woman, won into this privilege through my having
accosted her and placing her home-parish by means
of her coif. There are over one thousand differ-
ent coifs in Brittany. I have seen seven hun-
dred in a single collection. Each style seems more
interesting than another, and the laundering of
these airy bits of finery would place many a Pari-
sian laundress at a disadvantage. In some sections
the peasant woman wears a black skirt scarcely
reaching the ankle, a jacket of the bolero order
and a chemisette which, like the coif, gives a
touch of freshness to the costume. For fete-days,
the jacket of the women, as well as the waistcoats
(called gilets) of the men, are richly embroidered.
And lastly, the apron! the apron of silk! What
122 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
endless economies have been practised in order to
possess this culminating feature of the costume.
It is sure to be of the most vivid colors — such un-
relenting purples and crimsons and apple-greens
as even the rankest impressionist never imagined!
And be sure the creases in this silken bit of adorn-
ment are always in evidence and are held as so
many lines of beauty. Once accomplished, the
apron of the Breton peasant lasts a lifetime, and is
transmitted to posterity. Arriving home from the
fete, the entire costume, saving the coif which is
always worn, is carefully packed away in the
carved family chest, there to repose until the oc-
currence of some other festivity.
In order to see the ancient costumes of the men
one should attend a large fair or Pardon. At such
times the old men come out in the toggery of their
ancestors. Accordeon-pleated trousers confined at
the knee with silver buckles, leggings and sabots,
white chemisette, embroidered gilets, velvet jack-
ets ornamented with many buttons, a broad belt
with ponderous buckle, the hat broad-brimmed,
low-crowned, with long, floating ends of velvet rib-
bon fastened by a silver buckle. The young Breton
to-day holds to the gilet, chemisette and low hat
with floating ribbons. But in order to get a true
idea of the costume our Breton should be inside it.
It all goes together. Much time and zeal are ex-
pended in the embroideries employed in the cos-
tumes. Usually this ornamental work is done by
BRETON COSTUMES . 123
the men, the women going into the field, leaving
her lord at home at his embroidering! To-day the
costume is worn only by the peasants. Formerly
the nobility wore the same, and it was thus that
the Breton lords went to the Parliament and to the
Royal Court at Paris.
In the time of Louis XII, Anne of Brittany, his
queen, made many Breton families popular at
Court. The large trousers worn to the knee, of the
later period of Henry II to Henry IV, originated
in the Keltic braves, brago bras in Breton, the same
that Caesar describes in his Commentaries (Gal-
But here we are talking of frills and furbelows,
as our train is arriving at Landerneu. From Lan-
derneu the river Elorn winds its way to Brest, a
dozen miles away, between bold rocks on the left
and the forest on the right bank. The bridge
which spans the river, in the heart of the town of
Landerneu, is of medieval origin, and is the only
example of its kind in France. One of the two
rows of buildings erected on the bridge remain
— among these a mill, Gothic in style, with an in-
scription in Gothic attesting that it was built by
the Rohans in 15 10. The Lords of Landerneu
were great in their day. Madame de Sevigne,
whose chateau was in Northern Brittany, was not
familiar with the elaborate costumes of Lower
Brittany, and in one of her letters tells of a blunder
on her part, owing to this ignorance. One imag-
i2 4 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
ines this clever woman was not often guilty of a
faux pas! It occurred in Vitre, during the ses-
sions of the Breton Parliament, at a house where
she was intimate. She writes: "I saw before din-
ner at the end of the room, a man whom I took
to be the steward. I went to him and begged of
him, 'Do let us dine, I am dead with hunger.' This
man looked at me and replied with great polite-
ness: 'My dear madame, I wish I might be so
happy as to offer you dinner at my house. My
name is Recardiere and my chateau is only two
leagues from Landerneu.' It was a gentleman
from Lower Brittany," adds Madame de Sevigne.
Landerneu has been immortalized by her moon.
A Sire de Landerneu, at Versailles where the
splendours of the Court failed to impress him, re-
marked that the moon at Landerneu was much
larger than that of Versailles, and his saying passes
still for a joke upon the Breton town.
From this place we make various excursions.
That to the ruins of the Garde Joyeuse of Arthur,
celebrated in the romance of the Round Table, is
most interesting. Only the subterranean vaults,
the walls outlining the chateau and the gateway,
wreathed with ivy, remain as a souvenir of that
magical Round Table, about which the middle age
grouped its ideals of heroism, beauty, love and loy-
alty. So the Breton, backed by savants, claims that
in the Forest of Landerneu Arthur at one time held
BRETON COSTUMES 125
As for ourselves, sitting on the greensward where
once may have been the Court of Honor of this
Garde Joyeuse, we are at least grateful that
through this Legend we are possessed of that gal-
lery of fine old pictures — the good King Arthur,
Merlin the Enchanter — the wise Councillor Ger-
vain, Parsifal, Champron of Spiritual Knighthood,
as are the gallant Launcelot and Tristram of secu-
lar chivalry — and in this soft color of a September
afternoon we evoke the image of the proud and
beautiful Guinevere, the tender Yseult with the
blond hair, the sweet and patient Enid and the
fairies of the company, Vivian and Morgan.
The drive from Landerneu to Plougastel is de-
lightful, the route following the windings of the
river Elorn. Plougastel is noted for its wonderful
calvary. This, one of the finest in Brittany, is
of the sixteenth century, massive, crowned with
two large square tablets one above the other. On
these are sculptured scenes from the life of Christ
— the Flight into Egypt, the Marriage of Cana,
the Foot Washing and the drama of the Passion
being elaborately set forth. Over two hundred fig-
ures are sculptured, inartistically, but with a cer-
tain force and with great naivete. In the scene of
the triumphant return of Christ to Jerusalem, our
Lord is preceded by Breton peasants in national
costumes, playing bagpipes.
A drive in quite another direction takes us to
Notre Dame du Folgoat. In the days of Anne of
126 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
Brittany, Folgoat was as a place of pilgrimage
what Lourdes is to-day. The miracle, which in the
fourteenth century brought about the building of
this beautiful church, is embodied in one of the
best-known legends of Brittany.
"A poor boy, named Calaun, better known as the
Fool of the Forest of Folgoat, where he lived, had
the habit of bathing in the water of a fountain, and
after the bath swinging himself in the branches of
a tree near the fountain until dry. He had a way
of singing, as he thus swung, and his sole song was
"Ave Maria." No other word ever passed his lips.
He begged his bread from door to door. The
legend records of him that he never gave offense
to any one. Thus he lived for forty years. One
day poor Salaun was found dead near the foun-
tain. It was whispered about in the parish that the
Virgin herself nursed and comforted him, and that
dying, he repeated always the sweet name of Mary.
The people of the hamlet buried him, and there
sprang from his tomb a beautiful white lily of
great fragrance, on the petals of which were traced
in golden letters the words: "Ave Maria." The
news spread from hamlet to hamlet, and all the
people of the country flocked to Folgoat to see the
miraculous lily. The clergy took the matter in
hand, opened the grave and found that the lily
had grown from the mouth of the poor boy. It
was at once resolved to build a church there. Such
is the origin of one of the finest monuments in
PHOTO BY FRANCES N. COSTLING
THE BONE HOUSE AT TREGASTEL, INSCRIBED
'TODAY ME. TOMORROW THEE"
BRETON COSTUMES 127
Brittany. The fountain still exists and pilgrims
seek its waters for cures of many maladies. Ex-
cept for the pilgrimages Folgoat is quite deserted.
The gem of the interior of the church is the richly
carved screen in three arcades, sculptured in lace-
like designs, although the material is the granite
of Kersanton, of a quality more like iron than
stone. In the sculptures which adorn the pulpit
the legend of the Fool of the Forest is reproduced
at the hands of a sculptor of no ordinary merit.
On the twenty-ninth of August occurs the Fete
of Notre Dame de Folgoat — a fete very popular.
Every pardon, as such a fete is named, has its own
characteristics — its special canticle. That of Fol-
goat sets forth the legend of the Fool of the Forest
and is sung to the music of a very ancient hymn,
much employed by the early missionaries — prob-
ably as early as the fifth century.
Patronez dons ar Folgoat,
Hor mam hag hon Itron,
An dour en hon daoulagat,
Ni ho ped a galon!
Harpit an I Hz S ant el;
Avel diroll a ra . . .
Tenn hag hir eo ar brezel!
Ar peoch Maria*
* Douce patronne du Folgoat, Notre Mere et notre Dame. Les
larrncs aux yeux, Nous vous prions de tout coeur, Secourez I'eglise
Sainte. II y a grand vent, la lutte est dure et longue. Donnez-nous
la paix, 6 Maria.
BREST AND THE ADJACENT ISLAND
BREST is an important commercial point. It has
a port of renown, a military record, fine fortifica-
tions, a museum, a naval academy — all illustrative
of the energy of Richelieu and Louis XIV. And
to us of the United States there is the thrilling
souvenir that from the harbour of Brest on July
2, 1778, sailed the fleet which bore from the King
of France the recognition of the success of our
cause. The World War of 1914 made of Brest
a port of great activity. When America entered
the war it became the principal port of debarka-
"He is no Duke of Brittany, who is not master
of Brest," was an old saying centuries ago.
But far more interesting than Brest to the trav-
eller is a certain island lying off against the west-
ern horizon — an island surrounded by perilous
seas and full of romantic interests. It is the Island
of Ouessant — scene of many shipwrecks and of
much suffering. Not a tree can find root upon this
BREST AND THE ADJACENT ISLAND 129
block of granite. But in spite of an ungenial Na-
ture, Ouessant yields a sturdy race of men and
women. The coif of the women reminds one of
the Neapolitan. The Island of Ouessant yields no
money to the treasury of France, but it furnishes
the bravest and most intrepid sailors to her marine.
The record of Ouessant a few years ago was:
"Neither a beggar, a rogue, a rich man nor a bot-
tle of brandy on the island." There is on the island
a circular wall of stones called: "The Temple of
the Pagans," and at one point there is a row of
upright stones. These recall legends of the druid-
esses, which we shall mention when we visit
The qualities of the people of Ouessant are ad-
mirable. Difficulties without danger often harden
the disposition and make it selfish, while difficul-
ties with danger sublimate the character and give
it a romantic nature. To these people their life
seems to have given a kind of noble recklessness,
joined to unusual tenderness, made evident in their
behavior in time of danger. Hospitality to the
shipwrecked is the essential cult of these natives
of Ouessant, and theft from the unhappy victims
is a thing unknown. In the June of 1896 the Eng-
lish ship Drummond Castle went to pieces of! thi^
island and many of the drowned bodies were
washed ashore. To one who knows that the fete
costume of a woman of Finistere is made to last
a lifetime, and what store she sets on her meager
i 3 o THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
supply of house linen, the scene of these peasants
of Ouessant shrouding the bodies of the drowned
English in their finest linen and dressing the young
women and children in their own pretty costumes,
suggests great sacrifice. They carved wooden
crosses for each coffin, women knelt beside these,
the night through, praying for the souls of the
shipwrecked. The parish priest next day said mass
and the burials were made in the little cemetery
of the island amid the tears and prayers of the
entire population. Such scenes are not unfamiliar
at Ouessant, and the recitals of the heroism of its
brave men and generous and tender women make
of this barren granite rock a precious record of
the good that is in human nature.
The sea that washes the rugged coasts of Brit-
tany is sown with islands — each with its own
especial story — often dramatic and thrilling.
Stretching far out into these turbulent waters,
Brittany is itself almost an island and at Pointe du
Raz in Finistere, furnishes the most western point
of the European continent.
Following the coast line to the north we find the
island Sein, the Sena of the Roman historian. The
passage from the Pointe du Raz to this island is
dangerous, and the ancient prayer still serves the
mariner of to-day: "Help me, O God, in cross-
ing the Raz. My boat is so small and the sea is
It is a bleak bit of an island and is associated
BREST AND THE ADJACENT ISLAND 131
with the druidesses — for the tradition is that on
this island lived the nine damsels to whom was en-
trusted the sacred vase of the druids. These gath-
ered, with strict regard to planetary rule, the po-
tent herbs which, mixed with foam of the sea, and
boiled a year and a day, furnished the water of
inspiration to the druidic bard. The decoction
was placed in a sacred vase and three drops of this
mystic brew, placed upon the lips by the hand,
enabled him to behold the future.
To-day we find druidic stones survive as souve-
nirs of the sacred nine who inhabited the island.
There are but two wells of water on the island,
these to-day form the centre of social life. Young
girls fill their water jugs and lean upon the rail-
ing listening to the tale of the lover. The scene re-
minds one of patriarchal days. In the little church
the poetic Breton Angelus is still sung. But, un-
like their neighbours of the island of Ouessant,
alchoholism has made a footing on the isle of Sein.
Every pretext for libations is improved — baptisms
of babies, baptisms of ships, religious fetes, wed-
dings and burials. They make a pleasure of be-
coming intoxicated — suggesting a touch of epi-
cureanism which Horace would have loved.
Villemarque quotes a saying commonly em-
ployed by the imbiber of the isle of Sein — as he
lifts his glass to his lips: "Within this cup which
I now drain shines the entrance of the earthly
Paradise." This sentiment so coincides with Er-
132 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
nest Renan's statement concerning the tendency of
the Breton to drunkenness that it is worth noting.
He says: "The essential element of the Breton
character is ideality — the pursuit of the unknown.
His imagination is boundless. This element of
the Breton nature is seen even in his tendency to
drunkenness. It comes from this invincible need
of illusions, not from gross appetite, for never were
people less given to grossness or sensuality — No/
the Breton seeks in his hydromel a vision of some-
thing outside himself. He forever hungers and
thirsts for what is unknown and invisible."
One of the most important islands is Belle-Ile-
en-Mer. The entire island is a plateau lying one
hundred and fifty feet above the sea and it possesses
sixty safe harbors. The soil is good and well cul-
tivated, and the island is sown with little villages.
The climate is so genial that the laurel and fig tree
flourish. A romantic interest attaches itself to this
island. In 1572 the Abbes of St. Croix ceded the
island to Marshal de Retz (Rais), the original of
the Breton Blue Beard Legends, in exchange for
land on the continent. His descendant, Cardinal
de Retz, brought great fortune to the island. The
wit, sangfroid, elegance and love affairs of this
lover of the Duchesse de Longueville are always
associated with the place. When the Cardinal es-
caped from prison he fled to this island. Later on
he sold the island to Fouquet, Louis XIV's Minis-
ter of Finance, who himself was arrested in 1661
BREST AND THE ADJACENT ISLAND 133
for irregularities. He had a dream of entrench-
ing himself at Belle-Ile and resisting Louis XIV,
but awoke from his dream to find himself in the
Bastille. Alexander Dumas places on this island a
scene from the, "Three Musketeers," and Balzac
chooses it as the scene of a novel. And lastly comes
Sarah Bernhardt to perch herself in one of the de-
serted towers of the fortifications, for her short
summer holiday. The peasants of the island com-
prehended with difficulty the movements and hab-
its of the "great Sarah," who, with her pet lions,
dogs and other animals, her pistols, guns and tar-
get-shooting, made the island lively for these prim-
itive folk, during every August. But her generous
and tactful consideration of the needs of the people
and their little churches has won the affection of
her fellow islanders.
The crossing to Belle-Ile from Quiberon is dif-
ficult and must be attempted only at the discretion
of the sailors, who know the perils of these waters.
AUDIERNE AND THE LEGEND OF YS
RETURNING from the Isle of Sein to the main-
land, we come to Audierne. Some of the letters
of Robert Browning have made many familiar
with this part of Brittany.
All about this bay of Douarnenez legends of
these wild seas abound. No one of these is so
prominent as the Legend of Ys, an ancient city
which stood on the shore of the Bay of Douar-
The French composer Lalo, in his opera "he
Rot d'Ys" makes use of a libretto of which this
legend furnishes the thesis. The Legend of Ys
tells us that the great King Gradlon had for his
chief Councillor St. Corentin of Quimper. This
Saint often visited the King at Ys and preached
against the iniquities practised in that city. Now
the daughter of Gradlon, Princess Dahut, was the
most wicked person in the city. The peasants of
Huelgoat in Finistere still point out a gulf into
which Dahut had an unpleasant habit of throw-
ing her discarded lovers. But at last God wished
AUDIERNE AND THE LEGEND OF YS 135
to punish the city of Ys for its crimes, and Dahut
became his instrument. The gates of the dykes
and locks, which protected the city from the sea,
could be unlocked only by the King with a gold
key which he always wore suspended about his
neck. To one of her lovers Dahut had promised
this key. While her father slept she stole it from
his neck. Shortly after, torrents of water flooded
the city! St. Guenole hastened to Gradlon and
warned him to flee. The King took his daughter
but was overtaken by the waves. A terrible voice
commanded Gradlon to separate himself from his
daughter, who rode behind him in the saddle. The
King recognized this as the voice of God. He
abandoned his daughter to the waves and the
waters subsided. But the City of Ys with all its
inhabitants was submerged, and next day only the
Bay of Douarnenez was to be seen. There is an
ancient song, discovered by Villemarque and trans-
lated by him from the Keltic into French, entitled
"The Submersion of Ys," in which the horse of
Gradlon is represented as a wild horse and the
daughter turned into a mermaid. We give a free
translation of the poem, much less poetic than it
The song is in five scenes and goes thus:
"Hast thou heard? Hast thou heard what the
man of God said to King Gradlon of Ys? These
1 36 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
are the words which the holy man said to King
Gradlon of Ys: 'Beware of giving yourself up to
pleasure. Beware of giving yourself up to fol-
lies. After pleasure comes grief.' "
King Gradlon spake unto his guests at the feast:
"Oh! joyous guests, I fain would go to my cham-
ber and sleep." Then answered him those at the
feast : "Oh ! King, stay with us. Stay with us yet a
little. To-morrow can ye sleep. Nevertheless do
what seemeth good unto thee." Then the lover
whispers softly — whispers softly in the ear of the
King's daughter these words: "Sweet Dahut, the
key." And the Princess whispered softly, whis-
pered softly in the ear of her lover: "The key shall
be stolen — the gates that guard the city from the
sea shall be unlocked. Let all things be unto thy
Now whosoever had seen the old King asleep in
his chamber would have been moved with admira-
tion — with admiration — seeing him asleep in his
royal chamber — seeing him robed in his purple
mantle — his snow-white hair floating over his
shoulders and the gold chain with the golden key,
about his neck.
A BRETON FISHERMAN
After the picture by Lucicn Simon
AUDIERNE AND THE LEGEND OF YS 137
And whosoever had been watching would have
seen the white young girl entering softly, bare-
footed — entering softly the chamber of the King.
She draws near to the King, her father. She
kneels. She steals from his neck the gold chain
and the key.
He sleeps on. The King sleeps on. But a shout
arises from below: "The Sea! The Sea! The
Sea has burst forth! The city is submerged."
(Then St. Guenole appears.) "My Lord! Oh,
King! arise, arise and mount the swiftest horse.
The Sea, let loose, has burst its dykes. Cursed be
the white young girl who has opened the gates of
the locks of Ys — this barrier of the Sea."
"Woodsman! Woodsman! tell me — hast thou
seen the wild horse of King Gradlon pass through
the valley?" "I have not seen the wild horse of
King Gradlon pass through the valley. I only
heard in the black night the sound of his hoofs:
trip-trep — trip-trep, swift as fire." "Hast thou
seen, oh! fisherwoman, the daughter of the Sea,
the white daughter of the Sea combing her golden
hair at mid-day — at mid-day, on the shore of the
Sea?" "I have heard her singing, sitting on the
138 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
shore of the Sea, combing her golden hair. I
have heard her singing. Her songs are as sad as
The French critics say that of the writings of
Ernest Renan two bits share the honour of being
the most beautiful — one of these is: "The Prayer
on the Acropolis" — the other, the preface of his
volume: "Souvenirs d'Enfance et de Jeunesse."
The latter, from which we quote, we owe to this
Breton Legend of Ys. Renan says: "One of the
legends, the best known in Brittany, is that of a
pretended city of Ys, which, at an unknown epoch,
was swallowed up by the sea. They point out the
site of this fabulous city and the fishermen tell you
strange tales. On days of tempest they assure you
they see in the trough of the waves the peaks of its
church spires. On calm days they hear rising from
its depths the sound of its bells intoning the hymn
of the day."
QUIMPER, LA FAOUET, ST. FIACRE AND THE
VENUS OF QUINIPILY
It OFTEN happens to the traveller in Brittany, to
encounter in unexpected places, beautiful and
ancient chapels — sometimes in the depths — some-
times on the edge of a forest, sometimes standing
quite alone in a field. Most of these have fallen
into disuse but not into decay. A celebrated
French archaeologist, Freminville, holds that as St.
Louis brought architects from the Orient, we owe
many of the architectural treasures of France to
them. A local Breton tradition has it that several
of the churches in Finistere were formerly con-
ventual houses of the Order of the Templars and
it is an established fact that the Knights of the
Temple of Jerusalem had many possessions in
Brittany, priories, commanderies, chapels, etc.
A mile from Landerneu we find a chapel of the
sixteenth century dedicated to St. Eloi. This holy
personage is represented in the liturgy of Brittany
with twofold attributes of Bishop and Blacksmith.
He is one of the patron saints of horses.
t 4 o THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
And now, although there are many other places
of interest in the region about Landerneu, we
must leave them behind and take train for Quim-
per, our next objective point. This, like all Bret-
on towns, has its local legends. Chief of these
is that of St. Corentin, who went into retirement
at Plomodiern near Quimper. Here occurred the
miracle of the fish, a morsel of which he ate daily,
the remainder resuming at once its entirety. No
wonder he became Bishop of the Diocese. This
was in the fifth century. St. Corentin is to-day the
patron of the town, and its lovely cathedral is dedi-
cated to his name. This dates from the twelfth
century. Tombs of dukes, archbishops and numer-
ous knights and ladies line the outer aisles, and the
panels of the granite pulpit represent various epi-
sodes in the life of the Saint.
It is at Quimper that we purchase the Breton
faience, which is so popular with artists and which
has come to be considerably known in the United
States. The river Odet runs through the principal
street of the town, the favourite promenade of the
citizens being along the banks. From our windows
of the hotel we see the women washing their linen
in the stream as their mothers and grandmothers
did in their time.
From Quimper we will make a little excursion
into the mountainous part of Brittany. The Black
and the Arez mountains, we should call them hills,
offer picturesque scenery, and the people are more
QUIMPER, LA FAOUET, ST. FIACRE 141
primitive in their ideas than those on the coasts.
Folk-Lorists find many curious tales and songs in
the mountains of Arez, where they are still sung
in the Breton language.
La Faouet is one of the interesting places which
we shall find in this side-journey. And there is
Carhaix, birthplace of the First Grenadier of
France, and if one's visit chance to coincide with
its fete on the last Sunday in August, the place of
the famous wrestling matches. And Pontivy with
its ruined castle of the Rohans.
The presiding saint of La Faouet is St. Fiacre,
patron of horticulturists. It has come about that
Fiacre is also the patron of the Paris cabbies — in
this way. Long ago an Irishman named Savage
brought to Paris many plants hitherto unknown in
France — in fact he gave a great impetus to horti-
culture in that country. He chose for his patron
St. Fiacre. A compatriot of his later on inaugu-
rated a line of public carriages and on every one,
in compliment to his fellow Irishman, the face of
St. Fiacre was painted, as a distinguishing feature
of his undertaking. This caused the vehicle itself
to take the name of the Patron Saint of Horticul-
ture — thus sharing in the protection of a saint al-
ways honoured in Paris as well as in Brittany.
Our next point of interest is Quimperle. This
town possesses most interesting churches, is alto-
gether a charming place, planted amidst verdure
and flowers in the valley of the two rivers; the
1 42 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
Elle and the Isole, which, after their juncture, take
the name La Lai'ta. Everything about the place
is as pretty as are the names of its rivers, and Quim-
perle fairly deserves the title given it: "The Ar-
cady of Lower Brittany."
In the court of a chateau near Le Faouet, of
which nothing now remains but the entrance gate-
way, we find by far the most curious archaeological
object in the Province — "The Venus of Quinip-
ily." It is six feet high, and its origin has served
as a perpetual puzzle to the archaeologists. Some
believe it to be an Egyptian statue, others a
Roman — Prosper Merimee places it in the six-
teenth century — but the majority of savants to-day
believe it to be of a more ancient date. M. Cayot
Delandre insists that it is an Isis; it has the Egyp-
tian characteristics: the stiffness of pose, the mate-
rial, the coiffure and stole. He accounts for its
presence where it now stands thus: Certain Orien-
tal legions were incorporated in the Roman army
which guarded the mountains of Casternec, in this
region where archaeologists place the Roman sta-
tion of Sulis. These Oriental legions brought with
them their Goddess or Divinity for protection from
The Bretons call this statue "Groach er Gouard"
— (Sorceress of the Guard) — a name which dates
from a remote period. This statue has been vener-
ated by the Bretons for hundreds of years. It was
especially invoked by husbands and wives desirous
QUIMPER, LA FAOUET, ST. FIACRE 143
of having children. The clergy disapproved of
the cult and threw the statue into the river, where
it lay for a century or more. The Bretons then
recovered it and the cult was resumed ; they were
about to demolish it when the Count owning the
chateau — himself something of an archaeologist —
rescued it, and placed it on a pedestal in the court
of his chateau — and there the Isis stands solitary
in its lonely environment — an Isis in this strangely
Roman Catholic country — is indeed an anachro-
nism. No one has been able to decipher the char-
acters engraved on the forehead (L. I. I. or I.
L. I., or something similar.)
The costume of the women of Quimperle thrills
all feminine Brittany with the same emotions that
a Doucet or Paquin gown inspires in the heart of
some of us.
Lastly Quimperle boasts of an excellent hotel —
the Lion d'Or, where everything essential is to be
found — even to the ghost which walks at midnight
through the main corridor.
THE COUNTRY OF "GUENN"
FROM Quimperle we drive to the two little towns
made familiar to us, under fictitious names — years
ago— through Blanche Willis Howard's story of
"Guenn." The book so thoroughly describes these
two places that we need not repeat. In fact a trav-
eller visiting Pont-Aven and Concarneau is likely
to find himself verifying the book at every turn.
The mistress of the Hotel des Voyageurs described
so perfectly in the book thus: "Madame had the
air of a Roman matron in a Breton coif" — is still
living not far from her little hotel and she tells us
many interesting things sitting with us over our
coffee at one of the tables outside. Tells us how
the author of the book, which was written in the
corner room up one flight, used to inveigle her into
long conversations, she herself little suspecting
that she was being put into a story. Nor did she
know her fate until ten years after the book was
printed, when an American arriving in Concarneau
drew from his pocket the "Tauchnitz," and pro-
THE COUNTRY OF "GUENN" 145
ceeded to verify its characters, beginning with
Madame herself. She tells us of the good cure of
the Lannions in the story, how on stormy nights he
used to light his lantern and search along the rocky
shores of his island for the shipwrecked — how he
worked among his fisher folk and shared his food
and money with them, visiting the sick, comfort-
ing the afflicted. He died only a few years ago —
died on his island among his people — instead of
wandering off to Rome and immuring himself in
a cloister as the story has it. And our "Roman
matron in a coif" takes us to see "Guenn" — the
veritable "Guenn" of the story, who escaped the
drowning of the last chapter only to marry a
"ne'er-do-well." We drive to the house in a
shabby quarter of the town, and are told that
"Guenn" is at the lavoir doing the family washing.
Thither we go. The scene seems little changed
to-day. The women bend over their pile of linen ;
the paddles and the tongues are all going together;
rows of many-colored and much patched garments
hang over the hedges drying in the sun. Only the
actors in the scene are changed — of the old group
described in the book — only "Guenn" remains.
She bends over the soiled linen of her pathetic
menage. She soaps and paddles, but she does not
sing as of old — not even her "wicked little song"
does she sing. She looks up from her paddling —
seeks Madame of the Voyageurs, always a stanch
friend — in the book and out of it — and she
146 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
comes. The years have made havoc of the
lines of her face. There is nothing left of the
flashing exuberant child. Poverty and discipline
have had their way. But in the pathetic face
turned up to us we find a pair of fine eyes — tired-
looking they are, but still full of expression, and
we sigh: Poor little "Guenn"!
On a lovely summer afternoon at Nizon, which
is near Pont-Aven, the sound of the vesper bells
of the ancient church recalled this old song. It is
supposed to be sung by a young Breton of the par-
ish of Nizon and portrays the naive and delicate
wooing of the Breton youth.
"All of the household have gone to the aire neuve,
I also must go with them to the fete :
Ring, bells of Nizon — ring, ring.
There was no lack of young men at the fete
Nor of pretty girls was there lack.
Ring, bells of Nizon — ring, ring.
My heart beat when I heard the binions playing,
Then I saw a young girl dancing:
She was as sweet as a turtle dove.
Ring, bells of Nizon — ring, ring.
Her eyes shone like drops of dew on the
Blossom of the white thorn at the dawning of the
Ring, bells of Nizon — ring, ring.
And they were blue like the flower of the flax,
Her teeth were as beautiful as precious stones.
THE COUNTRY OF "GUENN" 147
Ring, bells of Nizon — ring, ring.
And she was full of life and joy. And she looked
At me. And I — I looked at her. And I went to
To invite her To invite her for the gavotte.
Ring, bells of Nizon — ring, ring.
And as we danced together
— As we danced I pressed her little
White hand. And she began to smile —
To smile as sweetly as an angel in Paradise.
And I began to smile at her. And from
That moment I love only her.
Ring, bells of Nizon — ring, ring.
To-night at twilight I shall go to her, and I
Shall take to her a velvet ribbon and a cross,
A band of velvet and a cross. Oh ! how it will
Glisten on her little bare throat, and I
Will take to her a silver ring to put upon
Her pretty little finger —
To put upon her finger that she may sometimes
think of me.
Ring, bells of Nizon — ring, ring!"
BRIZEUX— THE NATIONAL POET OF BRITTANY
Leaving Concarneau, an hour by train brings
us to Lorient. As a town, the place contains little
of interest. It is ugly, modern and commercial.
But there is one spot here to which the faithful
pilgrim is sure to turn. Not for its beauty of sur-
rounding, for the cemetery of Lorient shares the
ugliness of the town. But in this cemetery is the
tomb of Brittany's national poet — Brizeux.
To know the poems of Brizeux is to know the
Bretons and Lower Brittany. They record the
traits and customs of his people. In these verses
the poet sings of his youth, of the little "Morie"
of the Pardons, the fete of St. Jean, the songs of
the bards, the tales of the beggars — of the fairies
and dolmens and legends of his country. His
"Sea-Gulls," a song sung by the young girls of Le
Croisic as their lovers depart on their long voyage,
is perhaps the most popular of the poems of
At the inauguration of the Statue of Brizeux at
Lorient in 1888, Ernest Renan in his discourse, in
such exquisite French which even translation into
English does not rob of its beauty, said: "It has
been said that Brizeux made Brittany known to
France. It is perhaps saying too much. But he
certainly portrays one exquisite thing among oth-
ers — and that is — Breton love — wise, tender, pro-
found and faithful — with its delicate touch of mys-
ticism. In the poem 'Morie' he shows us two
young people passing hours together without
speaking a word, hers a sweet, modest, rosy face
under a little white coif — nothing more — for
Brizeux that suffices. What adorable simplicity
of means! — no jewels, no costumes — scarcely flow-
ers — mere color is useless — the black and white of
the peasant of Finistere suffice to set off the rich-
ness of a virginal tint. The effect of beauty ob-
tained by charm. This is the triumph of the
Breton esthetic — therein is the art of Brizeux."
Some years ago we celebrated at Lorient the
centennial of the birth of Brizeux. It required
three days to complete the ceremonies which in-
cluded a requiem mass in the church, a gala per-
formance at the theatre, processions to the house
where the poet was born in 1803, to his statue on
the public square, and to his tomb. At all three
places the poets recited their verses, and the bards
sang their songs. Garden parties with national
dances and binion playing and a final banquet com-
bined to restore to the people of Lorient the souve-
150 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
nirs of the poet who is more dear to the bards of
Brittany than any other of the Breton poets.
Visiting the tomb of Brizeux, we are glad that
his wish, expressed in the "Song of the Oak" (re-
calling the druidic bards of old Armorica), has
been carried out, and the description written there-
on reads: "He sang of his country and made it
HENNEBONT AND THE BALLAD OF JEANNE DE
From Lorient we travel by train for a half-hour
and arrive at Hennebont. The old town is inter-
esting to-day because of its medieval streets and
houses and its beautiful Gothic church. But Hen-
nebont tells an ancient story — one of the most ro-
mantic in Breton history. That of Jeanne de
Montfort, a very intrepid woman of the fifteenth
century, who gave a Jeanne d'Arc to Brittany,
eighty-five years before France found her own
Maid of Orleans.
During the one hundred years war in the four-
teenth century the Duchy of Brittany was claimed
by both the Count of Montfort, half-brother of
Duke John III of Brittany, and Charles of Blois,
nephew of Philippe le Bel, King of France. At
one moment Brittany was without a leader. The
Duke of Montfort had been captured in battle and
imprisoned in the Louvre at Paris. Brittany, in her
helplessness, was in danger of turning to Charles
152 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
of Blois. The Countess Jeanne de Montfort was
at Rennes when she learned of the imprisonment
of her husband. After a period of grief she took
courage and set out as a soldier. A fourteenth cen-
tury militant was our Jeanne de Montfort! Car-
rying her baby in her arms she went to the Parlia-
ment of her Province where she inspired all with
hope and courage, after which she goes on horse-
back through Lower Brittany putting garrisons in
order and prepares her army. Charles of Blois,
in the spring of 1342, starts out with his army,
thinking to make an easy conquest of a country
without a leader. But Jeanne had foreseen every-
thing and was ready for him. Never had the hour
and the woman so coincided in the annals of Brit-
She came to the town we are now visiting — Hen-
nebout. She sent messengers to England to seek
aid of Edward III. Froissart's story has it that
Jeanne herself went upon this mission and tells
how she arrived at the Court at the moment when
the King was giving a fete to his favourite, the
Countess of Salisbury. Such is the authority which
true courage lends. When Jeanne de Montfort
was announced the knights strove for the privilege
of being first to salute her. The Countess of Salis-
bury kissed the hand that had learned to carry a
sword, and at once, under the inspiration of the
scene, Edward promised to Jeanne de Montfort the
aid of forty-six ships.
In this intelligent Duchess of Brittany, we find
our heroine as redoubtable under the helmet as
she had been charming under the "hennin" (the
tall, conical head-dress of the period) managing
the sword as she had managed the distaff.
We see her entrenched behind her fortifications
on the heights of Hennebont, and the town be-
sieged by Charles of Blois and his army. From a
loophole of the western tower she watches for the
arrival of the English ships, meanwhile instruct-
ing her soldiers and resisting the siege. Then at
the last moment the fleet arrives — the ships of
King Edward with six thousand archers. Frois-
sart tells us (precious old gossip that he is!) how
Jeanne kissed each brave captain on both cheeks
and praised him in turn.
We see her surprise the camp of the enemy,
through stratagem — rescuing her soldiers held as
prisoners. Finally Charles of Blois is obliged to
abandon the siege of Hennebont — and all because
of a woman ! The incredible audacity of our hero-
ine in going in person to set fire to the enemy's
camp earned for her the title : "J eanne ~l a "Flamme"
and the episode furnished material for a popular
song bearing that title, the translation of which
from the Keltic into French we owe to M. Ville-
marque. Add to this our own into English and
one realizes how much the flavor of the song has
been sacrificed. The story is given in four parts
154 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
"What is this which I behold, clinging to the
heights of Hennebont? Is it a flock of black sheep
which I see in the distance? — It is not a flock of
black sheep. It is an army — a French army on the
march — marching to lay siege to the town of Hen-
When the Countess Jeanne made the tour of the
town at the head of her soldiers all the bells of
Hennebont were set-ringing. When she rode upon
her white steed with her child upon her knee, all
the people of Hennebont shouted with joy: "May
God protect mother and son and may He put to
route the French." As the procession came to an
end they heard the French army shouting: "And
now we come. We come to capture every living
soul of the town of Hennebont. We come to cap-
ture the hind and her fawn. We have chains of
gold wherewith to bind them one to the other."
Then answered Jeanne la-Flamme from the top
of her tower: "It is not the hind who will be cap-
tured. As to the wicked wolf, that I will not say.
If to-night the wolf is cold, it is I who will warm
his den." And having thus spoken, she descended,
furious. And she put on a corset of steel. And she
coiffed herself in a black helmet. And she armed
herself with a sharp-edged sword. And, carrying
in her hand a flaming torch, she set out from one of
the gates of the town.
Now the French were singing gaily as they were
seated at table. Gathered together in their closed
tents, the French were singing gaily in the night.
When in the distance might have been heard a
strange voice — a strange voice singing in solemn
tones : "More than one now eating white bread will
soon be biting the cold black earth. More than
one who now boasts shall soon be reduced to
Many were lying — overcome with much drink-
ing — their heads upon the tables, when the alarm
was sounded: "Fire! Fire! It is Jeanne-la-
Flamme! forsooth, the most daring woman in all
Jeanne-la-Flamme had set blazing the four cor-
ners of the French camp, and the wind spread the
flames and illumined the black night, and the tents
were burned and the French consumed — three
thousand reduced to ashes and only a hundred es-
Now Jeanne-la-Flamme, next morning, stood
smiling at the top of her tower. Looking down
upon the plain and seeing the French camp de-
156 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
stroyed and the smoke still rising from the
tents reduced to embers — said Jeanne-la-Flamme:
"Mon Dieu! What a splendid tillage! Mon
Dieu! What a splendid tillage! For every grain
of barley we shall have ten. The old Romans said
truly: "There is nothing so good as the bones of
Gauls — nothing so good as the bones of Gauls —
ground fine — for making the barley grow."
The hatred of the French name flashes out hor-
ribly in this song and suggests the wild beast —
long-hunted, turning at last upon his destroyers.
This was indeed the position of Brittany in respect
Froissart, in describing the exploits of Jeanne de
Montfort, accentuates no act of hers so rudely as
does this ancient song. But this War of the Suc-
cession was on both sides remarkable for its
cruelty. As always in the Middle Age, side by
side existed the sentiment of chivalry, the fervor of
Christianity and the ferocity of "barbaric times, and
in judging of Jeanne de Montfort we must place
her in her times.
But we must descend from our heights of Henne-
bont and its bellicose souvenirs and rearrange our
dispositions entirely. For our next journey leads
us on a pious pilgrimage to St. Anne d'Auray. Pil-
grimages of great importance occur here twice a
year — one in the week following Whitsunday, the
other on St. Anne's Day, the twenty-sixth of July.
While the Pardon of St. Yves at Treguier honours
the national Saint — the Church Calendar that of
St. Anne, which is more thronged by devotees of
the Mother of the Virgin and Auray being a cen-
tral point, the pilgrims flock from all quarters, and
the traveller has the valuable opportunity of see-
ing a greater variety of costumes than at any other
CARNAC AND LEGENDS OF THE DRUIDS
We NEXT come to Carnac — the cradle of Gallic
Druidism. Our first impression was received
under a windy night sky, the moon now and then
lifting the somber shadows of the plain. Grey
stones of various heights and dimensions stand
mute and solemn. Some of them in long rows —
here and there a menhir towers above the others.
The remains of a cromlech — the sacred circle out-
lined at one end of the plain. We wander among
these queer grey stones and recall the legends as-
sociated with them. Especially on such a night,
under this varying sky, does fancy create weird
pictures in the midst of the uncertain shadows.
We conjure forms of druidic priestesses as pic-
tured in the legends — their soft white woollen
robes floating in the night wind, their bracelets and
girdles of gold gleaming in the moonlight, the
wreath of mystic verveine on their heads — armed
with torches — dancing their swinging, swaying
dance. Jubanivelle of the Sorbonne, the acknowl-
CARNAC AND LEGENDS OF THE DRUIDS 159
edged authority, tells us that the Stones of Carnac
— although employed by the druids in practicing
their ceremonies, were placed where they now
stand thousands of years before the druids came
into Gaul. Their origin remains a mystery.
These stones tell no tales. There are no inscrip-
tions — no hieroglyphics to decipher. Even the
"grey cult," as druidism has been named, is nearly
obliterated by the three thousand years that have
swept over it, and fancy must now serve as ma-
gician to conjure pictures of its strange and unex-
plained past. A few stanzas of their chief bard
Taliesin, — whose mystical poems are believed by
some to be derived from the sources of druidism
— and some of the laws and customs and beliefs of
this strange people, exist to-day. Some of the laws
which have been preserved are interesting. Caesar
wrote: "It is a law of the druids that no man shall
be richer than his neighbour." Other laws were :
"Do not discuss religion among yourselves." "The
druid shall be pure and chaste." "Be mute in
presence of a stranger." "Women may be judges
and arbiters." "Foreign merchants are forbidden
to import luxuries among us." "Usury is a theft
and you owe the usurer nothing." "Marry your
wife without a dowry." "No children shall be
brought up in cities. The child shall be brought
up in the villages, otherwise the Republic has no
use for him." "A man at the age of twenty-five
having too large a waist-line shall be put to death
160 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
for gluttony." Some of these laws certainly sug-
gest the ideas of Emersonian "plain living and
high thinking" among these men of oak. It is said
that with the druids there were seven senses, appe-
tite and aversion being admitted to the number —
hence perhaps the phrase: "frightened out of his
Through the few fragments that have survived
savants have sought to solve the mystery of the cult
practiced among these stones, but Carnac keeps
the secret of her grandeur — lugubrious and silent.
Robert Browning, in the sixteenth stanza of the
"Two Poets of Croisic," writes — alluding to the
desire to know the secret of these stones: "Each
pale man importunes — vainly, the mumbling to
speak plain once more."
On the sixteenth of September — sometimes on
the fifteenth, if the day chance to be a Sunday, the
Pardon of St Comely occurs at Carnac. What a
great Saint is Comely! For he not only saved
Carnac by turning the invading Roman soldiers to
stone — do we not see these thousands of upright
stones still standing as witnesses to the mir-
acle? — But St. Comely is also the guardian of
horned cattle. After High Mass of the day of the
fete — the cattle, decked with ribbons and flowers,
are brought to the door of the church — there the
clergy in gorgeous vestments, the altar boys swing-
ing the burning censers, bless the cattle and sprin-
kle them with holy water. The cattle are then
CARNAC AND LEGENDS OF THE DRUIDS 161
driven to the market and sold at auction. The
owners often bid them in themselves. The pres-
ence of one of these cattle preserves an entire herd
from disease. A strange custom — named the noc-
Notwithstanding endless sanctiflcations the
ancient beliefs connected with the stones persist,
but under new names. The menhirs, dolmens
and rocking stones scattered through Brittany are
sought to-day for various purposes.
To cite several instances. On the Island of Sein
persons with fever send to have placed at the foot
of the menhir nine pebbles which must be brought
in the pocket handkerchief of the sick person.
Whoever takes away these pebbles takes the fever,
thus ridding the patient of his malady.
At Locmariaquer, near Carnac, a young girl
wishing to marry within the year climbs to the top
of the highest menhir on the night of the first of
May, gathers up her skirts and slides down to the
ground. In Ille-et-Vilaine a similar practice ex-
ists — married people visit these stones to cure
sterility. At Plouet (C6tes-du-Nord) there is a
famous stone of this class. Often bits of ribbon
or woollen stuff are placed on the stone as offer-
ings — newly married couples seek the menhir of
Plouarzel, the largest in Finistere. Through the
rites practised there the husband believes he will
be the father of boys rather than girls.
If engaged couples utter their vows across dol-
162 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
mens, which have certain ruts on their surface,
and gather the herbs growing beneath the stones,
the marriage will be a happy one. Most of the
rites practised at druidistic stones have to do with
love and fecundity, and are performed clandes-
tinely. The fact that these stones have acquired a
degree of polish at certain places attest to the fre-
quency of these rites.
Near the Bourg of Plouaret is a dolmen sur-
mounted by a small chapel named "The Chapel
of the Seven Saints." An ancient popular guerz
of the country celebrated there the Seven Sleepers
of Ephesus. The Church has appropriated the
title of the Chapel to the Seven Saints, either the
seven who came over from Ireland or to a group
of seven early Breton Saints.
At the grotto of Abelard and Heloi'se young girls
break a bit from one of the stones in order to be
married within the year.
Of the eighty Rocking Stones found in France,
fifteen are in the C6tes-du-Nord, and there are a
number in Morbihan and Finistere.
Until 1880 these stones were held to be the work
of man. To-day it is believed that they belong to
geology by their origin and to archaeology by their
use. Legends attribute the placing of these stones
to fairies, monk-lore gives the credit to the Virgin
and to Satan. These stones often serve as ordeals.
Jealous husbands seek that near Concarneau in or-
der to solve their doubts. There are traditions of
CARNAC AND LEGENDS OF THE DRUIDS 163
two fetes formerly celebrated at rocking stones,
one on the first of May, the other at harvest time.
Many of the large boulders along the coast are
called Gargantua's pebbles, the giant having been
annoyed by these stones getting into his shoes, and
casting them aside here and there.
Formerly stones in Brittany increased in size
miraculously, but they have been exorcised, since
when they no longer gain in proportion. As in
other countries, certain rocks in Brittany sing; one
on a high point named Men-Varia is often heard
singing at sunrise.* I have visited the rock of
Ploumanach which sings at sunset. The people
say it is the sweet voice of Mary, protector of the
mariner, praying for her Bretons.
In the river at Scaer the Bretons search for the
stones of the Cross. On every one the sacred sym-
bol is found in relief. That the geologists call
them Staurotites has not yet lessened their real
value. Every household desiring to avoid colic,
sorcery and mad dogs, possess one or more of these
stones, which also serve as amulets when travelling.
From Carnac to Locmariaquer we travel by pri-
vate conveyance. Locmariaquer possesses a won-
derful dolmen and interesting Roman remains, and
not far off is the mound on which is a curious crom-
*It is said that treasures are often found under the singing
rocks, but we are told that they are Satanic in origin and disaster
is sure to overtake him who ventures to dig to find these treasures.
At Trogaredic, near Morlaix, there is gold in a certain place in
the earth, but he who searches for it will fare ill in this world and
164 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
lech. Alexander Dumas places the tragic death
of his Porthos in the grotto of Locmariaquer.
At the little inn one should not fail to order oys-
ters, the specialty of the place. These our hostess
allowed us to enjoy, sitting in the kitchen before
the broad fireplace, thus being served directly from
the coals where the broiling goes on at the hands
of our hostess.
FOUNTAINS share the popularity of stones in
the legends. There is a famous one at Yffiniac near
St. Brieuc, called the "Fountain of the Seven
Saints." This is efficacious in cases of eczema.
That of St. Malo in Brehand cures boils. The
water of the fountain of St. Gueten is a specific
for colic, and St. Blanche for skin eruptions (but
the shirt must be dipped in the fountain and dried
in the shade and prayers said during the drying,
also an offering must not be omitted). St. Blaise
is a specialist for toothache, Notre Dame de la
Clarte for diseases of the eye and Notre Dame de
Bon Repos for insomnia. The Virgin at Quintin
cures sterility and idiots and epileptics are helped
at the fountain of the St. Esprit at Pledeliac. For
earache the Breton seeks Notre Dame de Lorette.
St. Aubert cures hydrophobia and St. Antoine aids
in finding lost objects.
Besides the Saints and their fountains the Breton
has three curative resources — the Midwife, the
Bonesetter and the Sorcerer.
166 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
The midwife is actively engaged, there being —
according to statistics — no Province in France in
which so many large families are found.
The bonesetter appears to have a method all his
own, and his successes as well as his failures are
evident. At Ploumanach the usual fee for a sim-
ple fracture is one franc — for a double fracture
two, and a complicated case is held to be worth
the three francs demanded.
When all other resources fail, there is the Sor-
cerer, who is feared, respected, sought or avoided,
according to circumstances. Many a Breton cure
possesses a copy of the "Agrippa." But it is for-
bidden his parishioners to own such an aid to
knowledge. However, every Sorcerer in the Prov-
ince has a copy. I have seen one, owned by M.
Anatole Le Braz, given him by an old peasant.
The book is black from its century of hiding in-
side his grandfather's chimney, lest the cure should
know of its existence. The formulas contained in
this book and the herbs he gathers, as did the
druids, with proper observation of the planetary
movements, are great aids to the Sorcerer. Some
of the remedies used by them, in the mountains
of Arez, have been, it is said, transmitted orally
from father to son, and are held to be traditional
means of cure employed by the orates. There is
excellent sense in this recipe: "To restore a
fatigued horse shut him in the stable three days
and give six sous to the Cure."
To ease the sufferings of one possessed by the
Loup Garou, repeat four times the syllable "at,"
twice the syllable "non" and four times "on all
In Brittany Sage and Sorcerer are often
synonymous. People smile at the Breton Sorcer-
ers, but in Paris we find them on the Rue Paradis,
and in London in Bond Street.
With the druids water and fire figure largely, as
forces in the Substance of the Universe. As his
ancestors lighted fires on the cairns at the Solstice,
so the Bretons light bonfires on the mountains on
the Eve of St. John's Day. And the priest now
blesses and often lights the pile. Young people
dance around these fires and leap across the embers
for good luck, and a brand preserved from the fire
of St. Jean brings a blessing to the house through
the year. A most delightful description of this
midsummer-night fete is given in the book: "Au
Pays des Pardons." In fact one finds in this a
perfect guide and inspiration as well, in journey-
ing in this Country of Pilgrimages.
Luzel publishes over twenty Sun legends. A
few years ago the Patron or chief person of the
Fete of the Solstice wore a rosette of green, blue
and white ribbon, these colours, curiously, are those
of the Welsh bards, druids and ovates. In some
localities he was dressed entirely in these colors.
They danced around the dolmen. Persons under
sixteen years of age were not admitted to this fete,
168 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
and once married their right to participate ended.
The Patron of the preceding fete lost his position
when another succeeded in seizing from him the
tri-colored rosette, when he was proclaimed chief
or Patron of the fete. The observance of the Fete
of the Solstice lingers in the mountains, where the
Keltic cpirit remains comparatively intact. The
center of the Cult is near Plougasnou in Finistere,
where the touching of the finger of St. John, treas-
ured in the sacristy, joined to the use of the water
of the fountain, cures the worst cases of disease of
the eye. This fete has become spoiled to a degree,
owing to its popularity, and I grieve to say that at
the moment of the lighting of the bonfires, volleys
of musketry accompany the ceremony.
As for trees and plants, the oak holds its usual
place in Breton traditions. A branch of the birch-
tree is a signal of triumph, and the hazel-nut tree
symbolizes defeat. The curious object — the mail
benniguet — was made of the heart of the oak.
The mistletoe figures in many of the legends.
A panacea with the druids, it possesses (provided it
grows upon the oak) great healing powers. An
expatriated Breton finds the gul de chene "war-
ranted to cure nervous complaints," at a large
apothecary shop near the Hotel de Ville in Paris,
at six francs the pound ; a branch of mistletoe car-
ried on a railway train wards off accident.
SAINTS AND FAIRIES
In SPEAKING of the fountains we have mentioned
a few names of the Patron Saints, not many of these
are found in the Calendar of Rome. Brittany
counts her Saints by hundreds, although those
of Rome are likewise honoured — as if there
couldn't be too many. Nor does Albert the Monk
of Morlaix mention the half in his "Lives of the
Saints of Brittany."
M. Anatole Le Braz tells of a Saint — very popu-
lar — called in Breton "a zantic coz" — "the little
old Saint" — an old block of wood against which
one has only to rub his head in order to obtain all
that he desires. But there are obstacles, as the
block is concealed in a rock which opens once in
every eleven hundred years, between eleven o'clock
The name of St. Tu-pe-du does not figure in
the Monk's book, but he is important among the
Breton Saints. Another legend having one point
in common with that of St. Tu-pe-du, very Keltic
170 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
and very lugubrious, is that of the Mael benniguet
of Manne-Guen. "The Sacred Club of the White
Mountain." On the side of the Mountain in the
country near Poulder, is a chapel of the Virgin
named Notre Dame de Mane-Guen. People say
that formerly, old men tired of living went to the
top of the mountain, and one of the druids who
lived there disembarrassed him by striking his head
with the mael benniguet.
The Sacred Club of the druids, made of the
heart of oak, later on took the form of a mallet of
wood, afterwards of iron, lastly of a granite ball,
half a yard in circumference.
In certain chapels the mael benniguet is pre-
served, usually concealed in an aperture of the
wall of the sacristy. In case an aged person was
suffering a slow and painful death, the sacristan
entrusted this granite ball to some venerable friend
of the dying — sometimes the parish priest has per-
formed the office. It was placed on the head of
the sufferer, a sacred formula was uttered and
death came swiftly and painlessly. Thus Chris-
tianity has sanctified the mael benniguet of druidic
legend and preserved its benignant character, and
the Mountain Mane-Guen is placed under the pro-
tection of Notre Dame.
This mountain is near Guidel at the mouth of the
LaTta. It still preserves its ancient tradition (and
for centuries the chapel of Mane-Guen treasured
a mael-benniguet) and is still a place of pilgrim*
SAINTS AND FAIRIES 171
age, but — note the contrast! — to-day, young girls
desirous of becoming more beautiful and attractive
seek there the intercession of Our Lady of Mane-
As we before mentioned, the peasants have al-
ways loved their fairies, and did not easily believe
them to be Pagan. Not that they were held to be
quite Christian, as they could not be baptized. But
they can enter a church, act as godmother, and as-
sist at marriages. They are neither quite Christian
nor quite Pagan, but rather spirits of angels con-
demned to do penance on earth after which they
will enter Paradise. Chapels have been built by
fairies in a single night. Enormous crosses and
stones have been transported and placed by them
— always in the night. Also the fairies sometimes
say a mass. The dolmen is called the "Church of
Certain Norman historians indicate Brittany as
the chief sojourn of the fairy. The soil has always
been congenial to their existence. In the moun-
tains of Arez the forests are filled with these good
little folk. The bad fairy dwells in the grotto of
the coast, which forms four-fifths of the boundary
of our Province. There Morgan-la-Fee still prac-
tises her enchantments. The inhabitants of Tre-
guier often see this Breton siren, and Mary Mor-
gan is well known on the shore of Finistere.
These successors of ancient sea divinities figure in
endless songs, and old tales. M. Sibellot has col-
172 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
lected twenty stones of these fairies of the grotto.
In the mountains of Arez it is wise to avoid cer-
tain crossings of roadways, and certain fountains
in forests, and especially certain dolmens where
fairies dance their rounds. The people tell you
that they have themselves heard that famous un-
canny rondo — "Lundi, Mardi, Mercredi," and the
others respond : "et Jeudi et Vendredi." If the
passer-by venture to add: "et Samedil' he runs a
fearful risk. A rag-gatherer passing near a dol-
men one cold night in December, and hearing this
singing couldn't resist adding the fatal word. He
was immediately surrounded by these sprites of the
night, was hurled into the clouds and landed in
the moon, where he figures as the "Man" of that
orb, and there he must remain until the spell is
broken, i.e. — until another victim, led into the same
imprudence shall replace him.
I found a pretty local legend at Gourin in the
Arez mountains, so buried was it in the hearts of
the inhabitants of the parish that it had escaped
even the folk-lorists.
During a visit at the chateau of Gourin I no-
ticed in the little cemetery of the ancient church a
flat tombstone, quite new in appearance, resting on
two pediments which were apparently very, very
old. They explained that the former slab had be-
come so worn by the feet of the little children
whose mothers had brought them to the tomb, that
the parish had been forced to replace it with the
SAINTS AND FAIRIES 173
new slab. My look of inquiry brought the full
explanation. "Hundreds of years ago a certain
Cure of the parish was greatly beloved by his peo-
ple, and above all by the children, as he adored
the little folk of his parish. Now this good priest
had a weakness. When once he had fallen asleep,
after his day of hard work, it was with difficulty
that he could rouse himself. Once in the middle
of the night some one knocked at his door, asking
him to hasten to baptize a newly born infant about
to die. The Cure promised to come at once — but
alas! he failed to rouse himself — relaxed into sleep.
The child died. His grief over the loss of a soul
through his neglect was too much to be borne. He
thought himself unworthy of his sacred office — and
one night he left his parish — walked to the nearest
seaport and embarked for Ireland. Just be-
fore landing he found that in his haste he had
brought with him the key of the Sacristy. This he
threw into the sea, thus severing the last link
which bound him to his parish. He worked faith-
fully among the poor and suffering, devoting him-
self especially to little children, and came to be
looked upon in the country of his adoption as little
less than a saint. After many years, as he was sup-
ping one day at a little inn on the seacoast, inside
the fish which was served to him he found the key
of the Sacristy. He interpreted the miracle thus:
this his period of penance was finished, and he was
to return to his parish. Arriving there, his people
174 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
were overjoyed at sight of their beloved Cure,
whose absence they had never ceased to mourn —
and he lived to a very old age, and at his death was
buried in the parish cemetery. He had become
such a saint that miracles were wrought at his
tomb. If an infant was unable from weakness to
walk at the usual time, the mother brought it to
this tomb and, marching the little feet back and
forth on the slab of the stone, the child's strength
was secured. Thus the stone became worn and
the grooves grew so deep that a new one was made
to replace it. I give this as a typical local legend
— believed in absolutely by the people. And at
the same time not far from being historically true.
For mostly legends are history — history veiled by
the myth, it is true — but still history.
There are many Legends of Love — beauties per-
Luzel associates this class with the Psyche myth
and thus analyzes it: "Generally a condition at
first obscure or unhappy of the heroine followed
by a better condition as the result of some act of
devotion, filial or conjugal — a fall or misfortune
follows, due often to curiosity — expiatory tests, re-
demption and definite reunion of hero and hero-
ine." Luzel cites six examples. Other legends of
love are found in which several but not all the con-
ditions named by Luzel occur.
There are two heroines of legends of this class,
named Azenor — "Azenor la Pale," sacrificed by a
SAINTS AND FAIRIES 175
marriage forced upon her from motives of ambi-
tion on the part of her parents. And "Queen Aze-
nor de la Tour d'Armor." This legend dates from
the sixth century. Azenor, daughter of the King
of Leon, is married by the Bishop of Ys to a prince
of a neighbouring country. That the marriage
seemed suitable in one respect at least, may be in-
ferred from the King's words in giving his consent :
"He is tall and handsome they say, and handsome
and tall is my daughter." She goes with her hus-
band to his castle. Before a year has passed, the
mother-in-law, the villain of the play — jealous of
the beauty and influence of the young wife, ac-
cuses her falsely to her husband, who promptly
ordered her to be burned. "Queen Azenor that
day was led to the funeral pile, as innocent as a
lamb, in white robes, her feet bare, her fair hair
flowing over her shoulders. And everybody sob-
bing, great and small, as she passed by. And
everybody saying: 'It is a crime, it is a two-fold
crime to burn a woman about to give birth to a
child.' " But a miracle occurs. The fire refuses
to burn. "Blow, joyous firemen, blow, that the fire
may burn red and strong. Let us blow our best
that the fire may burn red and strong. 'Twas in
vain they blew. They blew themselves breathless
in vain. The fire would not kindle beneath her."
Then she is ordered to be drowned and is again
preserved through a miracle. Scene fifth begins
thus: "What hast thou seen on the sea, O Sailor?
176 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
— A boat without oars or sail. And at the stern,
for pilot, an angel. An angel standing with wings
outspread. — And what hast thou seen on the Sea,
O Sailor? — I saw, my lord, far out at sea, a boat,
and in this boat a woman with her child, her new-
born child hanging on her white breast, like a dove
on the edge of a sea shell. She sang to him in a
voice so sweet: 'Sleep, sleep, my baby, sleep.
Sleep, sleep, my poor little one,' " etc. Of course,
the plot is unearthed as the mother-in-law dies,
confessing her crime, and the usual serpents, so oft-
recurring in Breton tales, crawl from her lying
lips, and hissing, strangle her. The husband seeks
Azenor over land and sea and after seven years
finds her in Great Britain.
In all the instances named, the persecuted hero-
ine is beautiful, pale, has golden hair, is good, pa-
tient, and, in every instance, forgives her enemies.
No sentiment is so strong with the Breton as
their affection and veneration for the dead. With
that tenacity of will and memory peculiar to the
Kelt, the Breton holds to the old traditions. He
treasures the legends which serve to keep alive this
cult for the dead, which he inherited from the
druids and which Christianity maintains. The pe-
culiar moral atmosphere of Brittany favors this
result. With these people the veil which sepa-
rates the real from the marvellous is very slight.
As already remarked, the true Breton is always in
a state of mind where an explanation of natural
SAINTS AND FAIRIES 177
events is an interpretation of the miraculous. The
dead live intimately with the living.
M. Marillier writes: "In Paris it is the Cult of
the Tomb; in Brittany it is the Cult of the Dead."
For the Breton kneels at any tomb he encounters,
without knowing even the name of him for whom
he utters the prayer. M. Anatole Le Braz in his
book, "La Legende de la Mort," has made this es-
pecial class of folk-lore familiar to us.
The Turkish proverb: "There are fewer things
visible than invisible," applies to the Breton. In-
visible to the outside world, but he "has the power"
as they say in designating any one especially gifted
"Ankou" (Death) is abroad on the night of
Toussaint and the creaking of his chariot wheels
is heard by the Breton even though he be tucked
away in his armoire bedstead, the sliding doors
drawn tightly and his head well under the blan-
kets. On that night processions of the dead are
passing through fields and forests. A modest re-
past of Crepe and cider — the nectar and ambrosia
of Brittany — is prepared in every household before
retiring, in case any hungry ghost should visit the
familiar hearthstone. Lugubrious songs of the
Dead are sung from door to door. Among the*
Breton legends mentioned, many were common to
other peoples. The cricket brings good fortune.
They say: "Where the cricket sings, the good God
lives." A horseshoe concealed in the bed of a
178 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
rheumatic serves to lessen the pain of the occupant.
In Lower Brittany when a boy is born in the house-
hold they tie a bit of red cloth around the bee-hive.
On wedding days the hives are decorated with rib-
bons. When a death occurs they are draped in
black. If the mother of the family dies, the badge
remains for six months. On Good Friday a small
cross of wax, blessed by the priest, is placed on the
hive. Melusina, although in origin a French
fairy, sometimes figures in Breton folk-lore. Cin-
derella, under another name, is often the heroine
of Breton fairy tales. In the Breton version, "The
Wife of the Grey Wolf," the story is more charm-
ing than in the more familiar form.
Poor dear Brittany! Her forests, her moun-
tains and her seas are filled with Souls wandering
hither and thither, weeping and groaning. They
pass along the silent roadways everywhere.
PLOERMEL, THE BATTLE OF THE THIRTY, AND
AND now we are to make a little detour — quite
worth the trouble — in order to visit Ploermel — a
matter of three or four hours' travel by rail. On
the way we pass the tower of Elven, made familiar
to us from the pages of Octave Feuillet's "Ro-
mance of a Poor Young Man." It is an imposing
ruin of the fortress of Largouet and furnishes a
good example of the medieval donjon.
As we have said — every town in Brittany has its
legends. Those most popular in Ploermel are the
Legend of St. Armel and the Battle of the Thirty.
Meyerbeer's Opera, "Le Pardon de Ploermel,"
finds the mise-en-scene of its libretto in this old
town and the "Shadow Dance of Dinorah" was
suggested by the dance of the Breton maidens at the
parish fetes — the Pardons. It is a singular fact
that Ploermel happens to be almost the only town
in Brittany at which no Pardons occur — a fact of
which Meyerbeer's librettist was apparently igno-
180 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
The church named for the patron of the town,
St. Armel (Plou, Breton for people — the people
of Armel), is of the sixteenth century. The sculp-
ture is fine, the windows, eight in number, are ex-
ceptionally beautiful and are the pride of the faith-
ful of Ploermel. Many of the sculptures repre-
sent scenes in the life of Christ, but certain bizarre
figures suggest the jokes of Rabelais — among these
are the sow playing bagpipes, a cobbler sewing up
his wife's mouth and a woman seizing her hus-
band's bonnet. Similar fantastic sculptures exist
on the outer walls of the Cathedral of Chaztres.
These sculptures are preserved from the more
ancient church of Ploermel and are doubtless coin-
cident in their inspiration with the spirit which
produced the "Danse Macabre" and similar ex-
amples — episodes of the Middle Ages.
Our next objective point is Josselin. Thither we
travel by private conveyance. Half-way between
Ploermel and Josselin occurred an event, the rec-
ord of which furnishes — to quote M. Petit de Jul-
leville of the Sorbonne — the "most brilliant page
in French History." This came to pass on March
27, 1350, during the One Hundred Years war, at
a moment when the chief struggle was between
England and Brittany. Bembro (Froissart's bad
spelling for Pembroke), had been appointed by
Edward III, Governor of Ploermel, and Beauma-
noir (Breton) was Governor of Josselin. It had
been agreed to end a certain quarrel — a side issue,
PLOERMEL, THE BATTLE OF THE THIRTY 1S1
by choosing thirty English and thirty Bretons, who
should settle the question by arms. The place
chosen for the battle was the famous oak of Mi-
voie, exactly half-way between Josselin and Ploer-
mel. Each Captain chose his thirty men. When
the day arrived chiefs and champions first heard
mass, then repaired to the rendezvous. All the
nobility of the country came to witness the spec-
tacle. Each party's Chief made the usual ha-
rangue, and the battle commenced. Beaumanoir
is wounded. He asks for water. "Drink thy own
blood," a Breton voice shouted in reply, and "bois
ton sang" remained the war-cry of the Beauman-
oirs thereafter. Even Froissart, although pen-
sioned by the King of England, and therefore pos-
sibly biased in his judgment, admits the victory of
the Bretons. The glory of this battle was, how-
ever, for a long time disputed by careful historians,
but the question has now been settled by two strong
testimonies — first the contemporaneous poem dis-
covered lately at the Bibliotheque Nationale, and
second the chapter of Froissart restored by its edi-
tor, M. Buchon. Thus, celebrated by poets, sung
by minstrels, wrought in tapestries, the Battle of
the Thirty became so famous that for one hundred
years men were wont to say, in speaking of great
battles: "They fought like the Battle of the
We reach Mivoie after an hour's drive. After
the verdure and beauty of Ploermel, the place
1 82 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
seems barren. Everywhere grows the bunches of
wild broom, just as when five and one-half cen-
turies ago, each Breton of the Thirty gathered a
spray for his helmet before going into the battle.
The obelisk which marks the spot is a modest and
ugly affair of granite, placed in the center of a star
planted with pines and cypresses. Upon one side
of the shaft are engraven the names of the Thirty
At Josselin one finds much to enjoy. The cha-
teau has been restored without sacrificing its char-
acter. The Duke de Rohan is its present hospit-
able occupant. Visitors are allowed to see the
chateau on certain days, usually on Monday. The
church of itself is worth making the journey to see.
It is of the thirteenth century. There we find the
splendid tomb of the great Oliver Clisson and
Margaret Rohan, his wife, represented in marble,
lying side by side, each pair of hands devoutly
joined, the great Constable in coat of mail, at his
feet a lion, at Margaret's feet a greyhound with
her young. The ancient glass of the windows is
rare and beautiful. This church, Notre Dame du
Roncier, was famous through centuries for the
miracles wrought at the Shrine of the miraculous
Virgin — a black Virgin, was found under a black-
berry bush in a field, and upon this spot the church
was built. Since when, the town has built itself
about the church. Pilgrims came from remote
parts of France to intercede and invoke, and votive
PLOERMEL, THE BATTLE OF THE THIRTY 183
offerings on the part of the cured were many and
rich. I have read a book filled with astonishing
statements, all duly verified. Perhaps the most
curious of these is the account of a singular mani-
festation, the story of which has come to be a
legend — The Legend of the Barking Women of
Josselin. In a parish near Josselin, a long time
ago, some women were washing their linen at a
fountain, when a poor woman — a beggar — passed
by, asking alms. Now these women were hard of
heart, and not given to deeds of charity: "Go your
way," they said to her, severely, and as the stranger
insisted, they sent their dogs, barking at her, to
drive her away. Now this beggar was the Virgin
Mary. "Heartless women," she cried, suddenly
appearing radiant as they gazed at her, "you will
be severely punished for your crime. Since you
do not know how to conduct yourselves as Chris-
tians, you and your children after you shall bark
like these dogs that you have set upon me."
Since when (until several years ago when M.
Anatole Le Braz and M. Charles Le Goffic got a
law passed interdicting the custom) on the fete-
day of the Virgin there came people, barking like
dogs and suffering great agony, to invoke the aid
of Mary, at whose shrine they were cured of their
strange malady. Sometimes men have been the
victims of the malediction.
It would be a pity not to improve the opportun-
ity of visiting the Forest of Paimpont, the Broce-
184 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
liande of the Arthurian Tales. This may be done
by driving from Ploermel about fifteen miles, to
Plelan, in itself worth a visit — a little beyond
Plelan is the town of Paimpont, situated in the
forest. In this forest Merlin the Enchanter, him-
self under the spell of the Enchantress Vivian, lies
imprisoned under a rock. So the Breton bards af-
firm (and I never doubt what the bards tell me!)
Sometimes the traveller in Brittany almost imag-
ines himself under a spell — so subtle is the in-
fluence of the legendary atmosphere in which the
LE CROISIC, BATZ AND GUERANDE
BUT we must now return to Ploermel, where we
take train southward for the purpose of visiting a
cluster of towns on the seacoast — Le Croisic, Batz
and Guerande. The last-named was the ancient
Capital of Brittany, and it has preserved its feudal
aspect as only two other towns of France have
done, Vitre, which we have visited, and Avignon
in Provence. No more beautiful picture of an
ancient household, personages and customs of a
Breton town can be found than that given by Bal-
zac in his "Beatrix," in which Guerande furnishes
Guerande in its position is the summit of a tri-
angle, at the other angle of which are Batz and
Le Croisic, both places no less curious and inter-
esting. Guerande is still surrounded by its ancient
walls, its battlements are entire, its loop-holes even
are perfect. The streets are as they were four
hundred years ago, although now almost deserted.
i86 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
Placed in this remote corner of the Continent, Gue-
rande leads nowhere and no one goes to Guerande.
It is silent, melancholy and beautiful — proud of
former importance, however, for it was not only
the Capital of Brittany, but the great Du Guesclins
were the ancient lords of the Castle and the do-
main. And in our travels in Brittany one may find
the seemingly identical Guenics, the old Baron,
Mademoiselle Zephirine, Calyste and Gasselin,
and all the other types which Balzac, in his novel,
has so admirably, portrayed. To poet, artist or
archaeologist, Guerande is a place after his own
It is a delightful drive from Guerande to Batz
— along the shore — rocks and ocean at our left —
at our right the salt marshes. We watch the men
of Batz in their white costumes dipping the salt
from the vats. The costumes of the women are
renowned for their elaborateness, and no Breton
town enters into competition with It in this regard.
The third of this triangular group of towns is
Le Croisic. It might be described as a few streets
flung out upon a jagged rocky point. But let us
take Robert Browning's more graphic description:
"Croisic, the spit of sandy rock which juts spite-
fully northward, bears nor tree nor shrub to tempt
the ocean ... all stub of rock and stretch of sand,
the land's last strife to rescue a poor remnant for
dear life." Browning has made this trio of Breton
towns unforgettable. Guerande — a veritable bit
LE CROISIC, BATZ AND GUERANDE 187
of Italian softness, balmy air, tender sky, fruitful,
verdant with perfume of violet and spreading
green of figtrees. Batz and its picturesque men
and women and Croisic with its "Two Poets,"
whom he has rescued from oblivion, through his
satire, not in his best style, it is true, but in better
verses than either of the "Two" had dreamed of in
his day. Especially has Robert Browning made
Croisic unforgettable — not because he lived there,
for the simple folk do not dream what poet dwelt
among them those summers, but chiefly because
"Herve Riel," the "Croisickese," has been so
beautifully framed in one of his finest poems. This
rocky coast of Croisic is a fit training-school for
such sailors as our hero of "St. Malo." We
walked along the shore among the fisher-folk and
met our Herve Riel more than once. He looks
to-day to be of the same valiant stuff as when he
"up-stood, out-stepped, in-struck," to save the
French fleet on that thirty-first of May, 1692, at St.
Malo on the Ranee. The type abounds on this
rocky shore of Croisic: "Not a symptom of sur-
prise, — in the frank blue Breton eyes," exactly de-
scribes the Herve Riel we met in Croisic. Nor is
the "Belle Aurore" lacking. We saw — we believe
we saw — Herve Riel and his "Belle Aurore" and
flocks of little Herve Riels and Belle Aurores on
a September morning in 1896.
But for Robert Browning's poem, the hero of
Croisic would not have been to-day rehabilitated.
188 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
When the English poet in his "Herv6 Riel"
"Name and deed alike are lost:
Not a pillar nor a post
In his Croisic keeps alive the feat as it befell;"
he little dreamed that it was this very poem that
would serve to "keep alive the feat"; and that a
beautiful statue would stand as "pillar" or "post."
During two centuries the people of le Croisic
had "heard tell" of a brave deed of a mariner of
their coast. Like all legends, the story passed from
lip to lip — from one generation to another — an old
tale retold by some mariner to pass the time on
nights of watching for a belated vessel. But
legends are history — veiled by the myth, it is true
— and to-day the legend of Croisic, the legend of
Herve Riel — is history, illustrated by the fete and
to be perpetuated by the statue.
After the death of his wife, Robert Browning
sought solitude. Lower Brittany, which until
then had had no associations with his life, offered
the conditions desired, and he spent several sum-
mers at Pornic and Saint-Marie. The summer
of 1866 found him at Le Croisic. Here the poet
lived during the summers of 1866 and '67, and
here the poem "Herve Riel" was written.
Little knew the folk of Croisic what manner of
man was in their midst those summers "takin*
LE CROISIC, BATZ AND GUERANDE 189
notes !" In fact the name of Robert Browning was
unknown to Croisic until recently. Now, how-
ever, it has become a household word. The poem
"Herve Riel," translated into French and recited
by an artist from the Theatre Frangais, at the
inauguration of the statue, will never be for-
gotten in old Croisic town. Robert Browning's
poem, "Herve Riel," furnished the inspiration
which resulted in the placing and inauguration of
the statue of the hero of Croisic, which stands on
the shores of his native town, and which has made
known to his compatriots what a brave deed was
done by one of them. How can such an event be
other than inspiring to those who know the story
which the poem has embodied and celebrated?
One day in Paris, at the Salon of 1910, the at-
tention of M. Port was attracted by the work of a
young sculptor, Rene Paris. The statue bore for
title: "A Pilot Among Rocks." He found that
the model who had posed for the statue was a sailor
of Croisic. The coincidence was suggestive, and
as the model chanced to be a nephew of the Mayor
of Croisic, M. Port thought the moment propi-
tious, and seized the opportunity. He wrote to the
Mayor, proposing the placing of the Statue at
Croisic. Meantime the Under Secretary of State
for Fine Arts offered his aid, and through his
influence the Municipal Council of Paris voted
the necessary expenses, and the bronze was or-
dered. Thus it came about that without opening
i 9 o THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
a subscription, the statue awaited its place in le
Croisic. The Municipal Council of le Croisic
bought the site and voted money for the Inaugural
Fete. At Croisic it was a Hero to be honoured
instead of a saint — though, of course, many a saint
has been a hero in his day — and the ovation was
profane, for no mass was said in the parish church,
but priests, bourgoisie and fisherfolk, men of let-
ters from Paris, officers of the marine — "all sorts
and conditions" gathered about the statue erected
in honour of a coasting pilot of Croisic, born two
hundred and fifty years ago; and thus it came to
pass that le Croisic recognized her hero.
After the fourteenth century the history of Croi-
sic was the history of Brittany. The oldest monu-
ment of Croisic is the Pierre Longue — the (so
called) druidic stone. The chapel of St. Goustan
comes next, dating from six hundred and fifty. It
has its popular legend — that of St. Gousten — who,
overtaken by a storm, landed at Croisic, and, over-
come by fatigue, slept lying on a rock on the
shore. The imprint of the saint is still visible on
the rock — so the story must be true!
On the coast we find Pornic — "just where the
sea and the Loire unite," Browning's poem,
"Golden Hair," has it. This little town is at pres-
ent popular as a summer resort. But the legend
and its setting, as embodied in the poem, alone
make Pornic interesting to-day. The ancient
church, beneath the altar of which the "beautiful
LE CROISIC, BATZ AND GUERANDE 191
girl too white" was buried, has vanished, and an
ugly modern structure replaces it.
A mile from Pornic we find the bit of coast and
sea and house and fig-tree of the poem: "James
Lee's Wife." The Pornic legend embodied in the
poem "Golden Hair" is redolent of the peculiar
Breton flavor. The unsuspected sin of avarice
bears its sinister fruit, springing from the golden
hair coiled "aye" down to her breasts.
NANTES AND ANNE OF BRITTANY
A VERY agreeable way of reaching Nantes,
which brings us into the Department of the Loire
Inferieure, and is our next stopping place — is to
sail up the river Loire. Nantes has a rich and va-
ried history. For its early records we must go to
Caesar and Tacitus. Its ecclesiastical history in-
cludes a list of great names, as do its civil records.
Early Kings of Brittany figure among these. To-
day Nantes is strongly commercial in its atmos-
phere, and one is forced to search out the few
ancient landmarks, so hemmed in are they with
handsome modern buildings.
The house from which was issued the famous
Edict of Nantes in 1598, still exists and may be
In the Cathedral of Nantes, the traveller pauses
to admire a beautiful tomb in black and white
marble — a superb work from the hand of a Breton
sculptor too little known — one of the few happy
artists who have left only masterpieces to mark his
ANNE OF BRITTANY
From a commemorative medal by Jehan de Paris made in 14 ()t ) when Anne.
widow of Charles VIII. married Louis XII
NANTES AND ANNE OF BRITTANY 193
passage through the latter half of the fifteenth cen-
tury — Michel Colomb, as sculptor, will not easily
be forgotten by anyone who has travelled through
Within this beautiful tomb rest the ashes of
Francis II, last of Brittany's dukes. And in a cas-
ket of gold, of rich workmanship, in the year 15 14,
was placed the heart of a woman — daughter of
Francis II — Anne, the last Duchess of Brittany,
and twice Queen of France. Among the sepul-
chers of St. Denis we find her tomb beside those
of her two royal husbands — Charles VIII and
Louis XII. But she begged that her heart might
be sent to her own Bretons — a heart ever loyal to
Anne of Brittany, deprived of her mother in her
infancy, shared the confidence of her father, and
generally accompanied him upon his various expe-
ditions. The descriptions of historians and the
portrait in her book of hours preserved in the
Bibliotheque Nationale show her to have been a
person of great charm. The record of the year
following the death of her father (Anne was then
fourteen) is full of romance. Although her duchy
was threatened, Anne was still the richest and most
powerful heiress on the continent. Any prince to
whom she should bring Brittany as her dower was
sure to hold the balance of power in Europe. The
Prince of Orange was one of her many royal suit-
ors, but unfortunately for his suit, he had solicited
i 9 4 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
the interference of the Pope. When Anne learned
this she protested publicly, declaring that she de-
tested him. And when she discovered the plans
laid for carrying her off in spite of herself, she
galloped across Brittany on horseback, followed
by guardians, councillors and governess, and,
reaching Nantes, asked for admission. But the
Ambassador of the Prince of Orange had been
there in advance, and the gates of the city were
closed to her. In fact the Marshal of Nantes
came outside the gates to capture her. But if they
imagined they were dealing with a child, they
found themselves repulsed by a heroine. "A Mot,
Dunois" she shouted to her only defender, the
faithful Chancellor, and, springing to the saddle
behind him, off they gallopped to a place of safety.
After passing two weeks in the fields, she still pro-
tested that she would bury herself in a cloister
rather than marry this insistent Prince. And then,
called by her faithful subjects at Rennes, she made
her ducal entrance in that city and took the oath
before Parliament as her predecessors had done.
Finally the young King of France resolved to
marry Anne himself, and she, seeing no other way
out politically for Brittany, gave him her hand.
Nature had refused Charles VIII nearly every
advantage of mind and body. He was at that time
twenty years of age, Anne was fifteen.
A bit of sentiment lingered in Anne's heart. The
Duke of Orleans, of all the pretenders, had been
NANTES AND ANNE OF BRITTANY 195
the one most favored by her. That visit at the
Chateau of Nantes had left a romantic interest in
the hearts of both Anne and Louis. At this mo-
ment, however, he was submissive to his cousin,
and also grateful, for Charles had rescued him
from the iron cage of Bourges in spite of the Re-
gent of France. Hence Louis had come in person
to adjure all hope for himself, and to beg Anne to
give herself to his royal cousin.
Fifteen days later the royal troops departed from
Brittany and Anne left Rennes to join the King
at Langeais on the Loire.
With fifteen days in which to arrange a royal
trousseau — it is interesting to note, quoting pre-
cisely from our Charlotte d' Albert, that the "Duch-
ess Anne came to the castle attended by a great
train of Breton lords and ladies, and she brought
rich store of clothing and of household plenishing.
Most magnificent of all her robes was her wedding
gown of cloth of gold of more than ten thousand
pounds in value, and its train and her mantle were
bordered with an hundred and sixty skins of er-
The reign of Queen Anne was worthy and noble.
She was submissive to her husband. She protected
her beloved Bretons, opening high careers and the
best positions in the court and army to her com-
patriots. She held her court to the most rigid
rules of propriety and the most scrupulous eti-
quette. She had much to do to close the lips of
196 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
calumny and perhaps to silence her own heart —
who knows? And the young, brilliant and pas-
sionate Louis of Orleans, when an indiscreet ex-
pression of regard for Anne escaped him, found
himself banished from court by his queen. Queen
Anne gave two daughters to France — Claude and
Renee. All Brittany feted these events.
Six years after the marriage Charles died and
Louis became King. Anne had returned to Brit-
tany at the death of Charles VIII. After four
months our widow of twenty-one accepts the pro-
posal of Louis XII, and again mounts the throne
And now we note a change in the role of Anne
of Brittany. No longer a merely submissive and
reserved wife, she became a veritable sovereign
and a consummate diplomat. She had a large
share in the governing of France, as of Brittany.
She was the first Queen of France to establish the,
ladies court and she founded an Order of Chivalry
for women, based on moral worth. She had a
bodyguard — mostly Bretons, who attended her
wherever she went — always waiting her orders on
the little terrace at Blois, which we see to-day in
visiting this chateau on the Loire. It still bears
the name Anne gave it: — "My Bretons' Perch."
The King treated her with the greatest honour and
respect. In private he called her "ma petite
Brette." Anne is perhaps the only Queen of
France who has known how to hold to the last the
NANTES AND ANNE OF BRITTANY 197
love of her husband. He wrote long verses to her,,
in Latin, when he was past fifty. To be sure, they
were composed by his secretary! Anne replied to
them in the same language, the replies being com-
posed by herself. Men of letters and artists found
in her appreciation and patronage. Anne's taste
for arts, poetry and ancient literature is a well-
established fact. She knew her Greek as well as
she knew her Latin. It was, in fact, she who was
preparing for the Renaissance of Arts and Letters
which was to immortalize her son-in-law, Fran-
cis I. Her court was a school of virtues, a triumph
of politics and an Academy of Arts and Belles Let-
tres. It is said that even the little Renee — worthy
daughter of her mother — discoursed so loftily of
astronomy as to astonish the court.
On the ninth of January, 15 14, at the age of
thirty-seven, Queen Anne died and her body was
laid in the tomb beside the place reserved for
Louis XII. The heart of their Duchess was re-
ceived by the Bretons, at Nantes, with great solem-
nity and pomp. The Bretons, not to be outdone by
France, who had lighted four thousand candles at
Notre Dame, at the funeral of their Queen, lighted
five thousand in the Cathedral at Nantes in honour
of their Duchess.
The adherence of Queen Anne to the customs
and costumes of her Province has furnished the
material for many a legend. One of these has it
that she mounted the throne of France in wooden
198 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
shoes and we have spoken of the famous and popu-
lar rondo, which we always sing at the Breton
banquets and fetes, the same as sung by old Marc'-
harit, entitled: "The Sabots of Anne of Brittany,"
beginning: "C'etait Anne de Bretagne, avec ses
sabots" and each refrain: "Vivent les sabots de
CLISSON, THE GROTTO OF ABELARD AND THE CASTLE
FROM Nantes to Clisson it is only an hour by
rail, and it is worth a much longer journey to visit
the ruins of this fine example of a medieval castle
of the first order. This was the domain of the
Lords of the House of Clisson, another of whose
castles we saw at Josselin, for more than a single
castle was needed to satisfy a Breton lord in olden
times. Situated upon a high rocky point overlook-
ing the country about, its walls twelve feet in thick-
ness, the towers and battlements adapted to the
fierce conflicts of the middle age, this castle of
Clisson recalls strongly the feudal history of Brit-
Almost within sight, as we stand on the parapet,
is the grotto, sacred to the souvenirs of the lovers,
whose tomb at Pere La Chaise is the shrine sought
by all the world who loves a lover. On the route
from Nantes to Clisson we had passed Le Palet, a
little hamlet where, in 1079, the most subtle dialec-
200 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
tician of his time — Abelard — was born. When the
lovers, in the early period of their troubles, sought
absolute solitude, where could it be found more
complete than in this wild and desolate Morbihan?
Hither they fled from Paris. Here their child was
born. As we sat near this grotto in the twilight of
an evening in June, and recalled the story which
furnishes the most romantic page in the annals of
the sons of Brittany, the gloomy shadows of the
forest and the singing of the nightingales in the
branches overhead, seemed a fit setting for the
souvenirs of the story of Abelard and Heloise.
In a solitary spot on the shore of the Gulf of
Morbihan we find the ruins of the Abbey of St.
Gildas, which are well worth visiting. Here Abe-
lard passed a few unhappy years, persecuted by the
monks of that order. To-day his spectre seems to
be wandering among the weird rocks and grottos
of this solitary spot.
Each period of the history of Morbihan — the
Roman, the Medieval and the Revolutionary, has
been vigorous and dramatic in its manifestation.
And the historic personages of this portion of Brit-
tany are of a character which seems fitted to the
stern and gloomy aspect of its history, as well as its
Vannes — chief city and capital of Morbihan —
has its two distinct divisions, the ancient and the
less ancient — for no part of it is modern. The for-
mer is still surrounded with its ancient walls and is
CLISSON, THE GROTTO OF ABELARD 201
dominated by the Cathedral. The streets are nar-
row and crooked.
Only one place remains for us to visit together.
It offers a rather somber end of our little journeys.
For we shall find this last chateau, which we are
about to visit, presenting a strong contrast to the
cheerful, hospitable garden, avenues and entrance
to that first chateau which we travelled together
to Vitre to see the Chateau Les Rochers — per-
vaded with the graceful and charming atmosphere
of Madame de Sevigne.
An hour of railway travel brings us from Clis-
son to Tiffauges — the. most important of the Blue-
beard castles. Of the many Bluebeard legends
Brittany furnishes three. First the Legend of the
Count of Comorre of the country of Treguier A of
an unenviable reputation respecting his wives, of
whom he had four in suspiciously rapid succes-
sion, all four disappearing mysteriously. Second,
the legend which the French poet, Leconte de
Lisle, has so beautifully framed in one of his
poems to be found in the collection entitled:
"Poemes Babares." Lastly, the Legend of Gilles
de Rais. Among the bravest generals who fought
with Charles VII and Jeanne d'Arc for his coun-
try was Gilles de Rais, Marshal of France and
Lieutenant-Governor of Brittany — one of the
greatest soldiers of the kingdom — allied to royal
and ducal families. He was born in 1404, and be-
came lord of many castles and parishes. At the
202 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
age of twenty-four he was versed in letters,
science and religion. After having borne his
sword with honour in the wars he gave himself up
to the pursuit of pleasure, and became an adept
in that monomania of the Middle Ages — sorcery.
His establishments were regal. He supported a
guard of two hundred knights, a complete com-
pany of comedians, a chapel of thirty monks, a boy
choir and musicians, a horde of servants who were
fed and clothed like the servants of princes, and
who followed him on horseback wherever he went.
He held open house and his table abounded in
costliest food and wines. His chapels were en-
riched with ornaments, cloth of gold and silver,
censors, candelabra, crosses and cups of gold, and
an organ which he carried with him everywhere.
His comedians played mysteries and also love
pieces, called at that time Moresques. The habit-
ual scenes of the revels of this Breton lord were
near Nantes, also at Vannes, at the castle of Chan-
toce, but above all at TifTauges. Finally, after
having sold and squandered the greater part of his
lands, Gilles de Rais undertook to make gold in
order to satisfy his increasing passions, and threw
himself into the depths of alchemy and sorcery.
He sought out in Germany, Italy and elsewhere in
Europe those engaged in this pursuit. In the
gloomy subterranean passages of the Castle of Tif-
fauges, assassination mingled with the orgies. We
see to-day the chapel in which the Black Mass took
CLISSON, THE GROTTO OF ABELARD 203
place during these orgies. With his own hands
he strangled young children, and crowned his
diablerie, assisted by his chaplains and valets, with
sacrilegious processions and infamous ceremonies.
He studied the refinements of cruelty. An old
woman, veiled in black, hunted in the fields and
forests of the neighbourhood little shepherdesses
and enticed them to the fatal castle, after which
they were never seen again. The inhabitants be-
lieved they were carried off by fairies. The oub-
liettes of Tiffauges kept their victims and their
secrets for years. But there came a time when
questions were asked — terrible cries had been
heard at night, and finally suspicion was aroused
and complaints made. The matter was brought
before the Bishop of Nantes. Investigations
brought to light the skeletons of one hundred and
forty children in the subterranean vaults of Tif-
fauges alone. The Marshal, when questioned, re-
fused at first to reply — but the threat of torture
brought from him confessions enough to hang
scores of men. His declarations are unfit for
thought or mention. Condemned to be burned,
this monster of wickedness disappeared, and
thenceforth the name of Gilles de Rais was some-
thing to frighten children with.
At one of the bridges named Belle Croix, at
Nantes, at the spot where one sees the image of the
Virgin, is an ancient monument placed in the wall
to mark the place of the execution of Marshal
204 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
Gilles de Rais. The records of his trial are pre-
served in the archives of Nantes. His remains
were buried in the Church of the Carmelites.
At the castle of Tiffauges, the formidable figure
of this Satanic individual, who was the twofold
embodiment of the most perfect artist and the most
cruel monster, constantly confronts us. We do not
need to call upon the imagination to aid in pictur-
ing the interior of the Castle of Tiffauges, as it was
in the fifteenth century. Documents exist which
are precise. The lofty arched walls of this now
ruined castle were resplendent with the sumptu-
ousness of the period — wainscoting of rich woods,
tapestries brilliant in gold and silver, floors in rich
mosaic, the vaulted roofs splendid in blue and gold,
the escutcheons of this powerful family emblaz-
oned everywhere — chairs of lordly proportions,
richly carved divans, sculptured cabinets, prie-
dieux, dressers, coffers carved in elaborate designs,
chests wrought in metal, the beds raised upon plat-
forms and richly set out in brocades and laces —
perfumes, embroideries in luxurious profusion.
And upon all this melee of colour and sumptuous-
ness the statues of St. Anne, St. Margaret and St.
Catharine looked down!
Nor are the details less precise concerning the
banqueting hall of this veritable palace. From
the gorgeous chimney-pieces to the rare sauces
and wines, all was in the same princely fashion.
And we see Gilles de Rais in the midst of his un-
CLISSON, THE GROTTO OF ABELARD 205
godly guests — the perfect illustration of his type-
the product of the age which made the type pos-
To-day we wander about among ruined arches
and in the gloomy subterranean chapel we note
the oubliette. Still deeper underground is the
prison where scores of little girls, awaiting their
turn in the horrors, were rescued by the authorities
searching the castle for evidence when the day of
reckoning finally arrived.
Thus we find Morbihan furnishing rather
gloomy studies, and yielding the most lugubrious
impressions of any of the Departments of Brit-
tany. The Spirit of Druidism, the bold and in-
trepid Jeanne de Montfort, the somber picture of
the Breton Bluebeard, the pathetic romance of
Abelard and Heloise — afford to the traveller
gloomy souvenirs of Morbihan. And lastly the
intrepid Chouans play their role. The stern inde-
pendence of the Breton character is found com-
plete in Chouannerie, and in the wars of the Ven-
dee a century ago the Breton played a distin-
guished part. Thus the political history of Brit-
tany begins with the Druids three thousand years
ago and ends with the exploits of the Chouans in
We have found that of the five Departments of
Brittany, Finistere may be named the Depart-
ment of Art and Religion; the C6tes-du-Nord is
filled with souvenirs of feudal Brittany and the ex-
206 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY
ploits of her dukes and counts; the Loire-Infe-
rieure of which Nantes is the capital, and Ille-et-
Vilaine of which Rennes is the chief city, have be-
come more modern in spirit, and Morbihan may
be named the most strongly Keltic Department of
If in these little journeys together we have suc-
ceeded in interpreting to our readers in some de-
gree the landscape and the people of Brittany, the
genius, psychology and mysticism of the Bretons,
the object of these pages will have been accom-
Abbe de Coulanges, 22.
Abbess of St. Croix, 132.
Abbey of Lebron, 65.
Abbey of St. Gildas, 200.
Adams, Henrv, 13.
Albert, The Monk, 169.
All Soul's Eve, 119.
Anne of Brittany, 7, 9, II, 99.
123-193, I94-I9S, 197-
"Anne of Brittany and Her
Wooden Shoes," 105.
Arez Mountains, 104, 140, 141,
166, 171, 172.
Armorica, 5, 8, 9.
Arthur, King, 124, 125.
Arthurian Tales, 6, 184.
"Au Pays des Pardons," 93, 167.
Auber, Saint, 43, 44.
Avranches, Bishop of, 43, 44
Azenor, 174, 175, 176.
Balzac, 133, 136.
Barenton, Foreword, Page 3.
"Battle of the Thirty," Legend,
Beaumont, Madame de, 53.
Begana, 34, 35, 36.
Belle-Ile-en-Mer, 132, 133.
Belliere la, 61.
Beranger, Pierre Jean, 74.
Bernhardt, Sarah, 133, 134.
Black Mass, 202.
Black Mountains, 140.
Blanche, of St. Malo, 65.
Bluebeard, 6, 59.
Bluebeard Legends, 132.
Botrel, Theodore, 104.
Boulanger, General, 25.
Brest, 50, 128.
Breton Angelus, 131.
Breton faience, 140.
Brittany, Duchess of, 44, 153-
Broceliande, Foreword, 3, 184.
Brizeux, 103, 148, 149.
Browning, Robert, Introduction.
20, 60, 61, 134, 160, 187, 188.
Browning, Mrs., 7, 60.
Cadnec, Jean, 48.
Caesar, Julius, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 16.
Cancale, Bay of, 40, 43.
Calvaries, Foreword I, 101.
Canticle of St. Yves, 98.
Carcassonne, Foreword 3.
Carhaix, 6, 141.
Carnac, 6, 7, 90, 115, 158.
Cartier, Jacques, 48.
Casternec Mountains, 142.
Celtic, Introduction 7, 10, 16, 6,
8, 33, 56, 101, 120.
Celts, Introduction 21, 8, 9.
Chantal, Madame de, 23.
Chapel, The, of the Seven
Charlemagne, 40, 44.
Chartres, Cathedral of, 13, 14.
Chateau des Roches, 7.
Chateaubriand, Francois, Rene,
7, 49, 50, 52, 53. 54, 55-
Chateaubriand, Lucille, 50.
Clisson, Oliver, 183.
Coetguen, 65, 66, 67.
Concarneau. 7, 162.
Constant, Benjamin, 54.
Combourg, Chateau at, 49.
Corneille, 16, 18.
C6tes-du-Nord, 7, 48, 65, 82, 106,
Croisic, Introduction 20, 7.
"Croisic, Two Poets of," 160,
183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188,
De Conti, Prince, 19.
De Lude, Comte, 19.
De Maistre, Joseph, n.
De Rais, Gilles, 6, 201, 202, 203,
De Retz, Cardinal, 132.
Deroulede, Paul, 28.
Descartes, Rene, 26.
Devonshire, Duchess of, 54.
Dinan, 10, 31, 50, 61, 62, 63, 65.
Dinard, 49, 59, 60, 61.
Dol, 36, 27, 50.
Douarnenez, Bay of, 134.
Druid Book, 5, 9, 26, 38, 159, 170.
Druidism, 10, 11, 158.
Druidess, n, 131.
Du Guesclin, 6, 12, 17, 28, 29,
3i, 32, 33, 36, 37. 38, 61, 62,
Dumas, Alexander, 132, 164.
ficole des Beaux Arts, 47.
Edgeworth, Miss, 54.
Eisteddfod, Introduction 6.
Elorn, River, 123, 125.
Elven, Tower of, 179.
Fete of Notre Dame de Fol-
Fete of St. Yves, 88, 89, 96.
Fete of the Solstice, 167, 168.
Feval, Paul, 25.
Finistere, 4, 30, 61, 102, 106, 129,
130, 138, 149, 170, 171. 205.
First Grenadier of France, 141.
Folklore, Foreword, I.
Fool of the Forest of Folgoat,
Forest of Paimpont, 183.
French Revolution, 9.
Garaye, La — See La Garaye,
Garde Joyeuse of Arthur, 124,
Gargantua's Pebbles, 163.
Gaul, 6, 8, 9, 10.
"Gil Bias," 85.
"Golden Hair," 190.
Gothic, is, 82, 151.
Great Britain, 8, 9.
Grotto of Abelard and Heloise,
Grotto, fairies of the, 172.
"Groach er Gouard," 142.
Guerande, 7, 14, 185, 186.
Geurin, Maurice de, 66, 67.
Guesclin — See Du Guesclin.
Guenn, 7, 143, 144, 145, 146.
Gwenc'hlan, Foreword, 3.
Guingamp, Introduction, 6, 14,
36, 77, 165.
Heloise, 6, 200.
Hennebout, 150, 152, 153.
Henri II, 56.
Herve Riel, Introduction, 20, 61,
187, 188, 189.
Hotel Carnavalet, 18.
Hotel Rambouillet, 18.
Howard, Blanche Willis, 143.
Hugo, Victor, 54.
Huysman, Joris Karl, 13.
Ile-et-Vilaine, Introduction, 22.
Book, 4, 161, 206.
Island of Ouessant, 128, 129.
Isle of Sein, 130, 131, 134, 161.
Jaffrenou, Francois, 104.
"James Lee's Wife," 191.
Jean of Pontorson, 33.
Jeanne d'Arc, 12.
"Jeanne-la-Flamme," 153, 154,
Job la Poulaine, no, in.
Josselin, 180, 181.
Karmartin, Manor House of, 93,
King Arthur — See Arthur.
La Belliere — See Belliere.
La Borderie, 8.
Le Braz, Anatole, Introduc-
tion, 26, 81, 93, 96, 103, 166,
La Chenaie, 7, 54, 66, 75.
La Faouet, 141.
La Fontaine, 18.
La Garaye, 63, 64.
"La Legande de la Mort," 177.
La Tour d'Auvergne, 6.
Lamennais, Felix de, 7, 54, 66,
70, 71, 73, 75-
Landerneau, 123, 139, 140.
Lanleff, Temple of, 82.
Lawyer, Saint, 93, 95, 96.
Le Croisic, 148, 185.
"Le Gardien du Feu." 103.
Le Goffic, Charles, Introduction.
9, 103, 183.
Le Notre, 21.
Le Galet, 199.
"Le Pardon de Ploermel," 179.
"Le Roi d'Ys," 134.
Le Sage, 7.
"La Terre du Passe," 103.
"Les Derniers Bretons," 100.
Les Roches, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 22,
Les Precieuses Ridicules, 18.
Legends, Foreword, 2, 27, 64,
93, 100, 125, 126, 132, 134.
140, 167, 169, 172, 174, 179,
Legend of Ys, 134, 138.
Lisle, Leconte de, 59.
Little Brittany, 9.
Locmariaquer, 160, 163.
Loire Inferieure, 192, 206.
L'Orient, 148, 149.
Loti, Pierre, 6, 77, 79, 80, 103.
Louis XII, 123.
Louis XIV, 45, 46, 128.
Louis XV, 46.
Loup Garou, 167.
Lower Brittany, 112, 121.
Luzel, 103, 106.
Malivet, Louis, Introduction, 22-
Marie of France, 56, 104.
Morgan, Mary, 171.
"Mary, Star of the Sea," 78.
Marbeuf, General, 25.
Marc'harit, Phulup, 7, 8, 13, 14,
15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 104, 105,
106, 107, 108, no, 198.
Menez-Bre, Foreword, 3.
Merimee, Prosper, 54, 142.
Merlin, The Enchanter, 125, 184.
Middle Ages, 5, 157.
Minihy, 97, 98.
Montfort, Jeanne de, Countess,
151, 152, 157-
Mont St. Michel, 27, 39, 40, 41,
45, 46, 47-
Mosher, Ange M., Introduction,
3, 8, 9, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19,
20, 21, 22, 24, 25.
Morbihan, 4, 90, 106, 115, 116,
200, 205. 206.
Motte Broon, 31.
Moulton, Louise Chandler, 64.
Napoleon I, 53.
"Nightingale," The, 56, 59.
Nizou, Parish of, 146.
Normandy, 39, 40.
Notre Dame du Folgoat, 126.
"Oh ! Breiz Izel," 77.
Olivier, Pere, 54.
Order of Chivalry for Women,
Ouessant, Island of, 130.
Paimpol, 6, 77, 78, 79. 80, 81, 82.
Pardon of St. Yves, 96, 98.
Pardon of the Poor, 96.
"Pecheurs d'Islande, 6, 77, 103.
Pere Lachaise, 75.
Phulup, Introduction, 7, 13, 14,
15, x6, 17, 18, 19 (See Marc'-
Pierre Longue, 190.
Poulard, Madame, 41, 42.
Plouaret, 106, 162.
Ploubalasnec, 79, 81.
Plougastel, 114, 125.
Pluzunet, 19, 82, 105.
Poemes Barbares, 59.
Pointe du Raz, 130.
Pont Aven, 7.
Pontorson, 27, 28, 29, 30, 32, 34,
36, 37, 57-
"Popular Tales," 106.
Pornic, 7, 190.
Port, Etienne, Introduction, 20.
Porz. Evan, 80.
Provence, Count of, 19.
Quimperle, 8, 140, 141.
Rabelais, 20, 23.
Racine, 16, 18.
Ranee, 49, 61, 62, 63, 65.
Recamier, Madame, 53.
Renan, Ernest, 7, 83, 84, 85, 86,
88, 104, 132, 138, 149.
Renaissance, 63, 82.
Rennes, 25, 26, 30, 62, 86, 195.
Richelieu, Cardinal, 128.
"Riel, Herve" — See Herve.
Rocking Stones, 162.
Rohan, 123, 141.
Rohan, Duke de, 182.
Roland, Song of, 44.
Roman, 8, 9, 82, 83.
"Romance of a Poor Young
Romans, 8, 10.
Round Table, Romance of, 124.
St. Anne d'Auray, 157.
St. Armel, Legend of, 179, 180.
St.-Beuve, 54, 71.
St. Cadoc, 91.
St. Corentin, 140.
St. Comely, 91, 160.
St. Eloi, 91, 139.
St. Enogat, 60.
St. Fiacre, 141.
St. Gildas, 91.
St. Guenole, 135.
St. Goustan, 190.
St. Herbert, 91.
St. Herve, 91.
St. Idunet, Introduction, 18.
St. Ivy, 91.
St. Jean, 167.
St. Korion, 91.
St. Malo, 7, 48, 49, 50, 54. S6, 57,
St. Michael, 43, 44.
Sts. of Brittany, Lives of, 169.
St. Onene, 91.
St. Pabu, 91.
St. Peter, Introduction, 24, 89.
St. Pol-de-Leon, 101, 102.
St. Tremeur, 90.
St. Tudwell, 83.
St. Tu-pe-du, 169.
St. Urlou, 90.
St. Yves, 83, 86, 87, 89, 90, 92,
94, 9<5, 97, 1 01.
Temple, The, of the Pagans,
"The Lady of Coetguen," 65.
The Roses of La Garaye," 64.
Tiffauges, Castle of, 204.
Treguier, 7, 82, 83, 84, 85, 87,
90, 94, 96, 157, 201.
Treguier, Cathedral of, 86, 94.
Tristram and Yseult, 56.
Tregor, Introduction, 18.
Tudwell, St., 83.
Typhaine Rageunel, 30. 61, 62.
Union Regionaliste Breton, 105.
University of Rennes, 108.
Vannes, 115, 200.
Vendee, Wars of the, 205.
Venus of Quinipily, 142.
Villemarque, 33, 103, 135, 153.
Virgin of Guingamp, 77.
Vitr6, 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 24,
Westward Islands (Now Great
"Wife of the Gray Wolf, The."
"Words of a Believer," 71, 72.
Ys, City of, 135.
Ys, The Submersion of, 135.
Yves. Helotry (See St. Yves).
Zola, Emile, 70.
Mosher, Ange McKay,
The spell of Brittany,
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